South Korean authorities are investigating a Ponzi scheme that has defrauded over 2 billion won ($16.7 million) from investors. The scam sold ‘ad packages’ to its investors, transacting in digital currencies.
Police in Korea’s capital, Seoul, claim that the scam stole from 950 investors who have filed complaints with local authorities. According to a report by local television network TV Chosun, at least 161 people were involved in the scam.
Futurenet is a scam that has been around for a few years now, but this marks the first time it has targeted South Korean investors. It sells digital advertising packages to the investors which they can then resell and make a profit. The company urges the users to recruit more people to increase their earning potential, a classic trick used by Ponzi schemes.
Futurenet is also behind FuturoCoin, a digital currency launched in January 2018 that claims to rely on an extended version of the Dash code.
Futurenet was busted by Polish authorities in 2017. The country’s consumer protection authority warned the public against investing in the company, terming it a pyramid scheme. In yet another warning last year, the authority revealed that it had leveled charges against the company.
Blockchain analytics company Chainalysis further investigated the company, likening its structure to that of PlusToken, one of the largest digital currency Ponzi schemes ever. The investigation unearthed an extensive crime ring that had received hundreds of millions of dollars from investors.
Chainalysis revealed that Futurenet was heavily connected with two digital currency merchant processors – CoinDeal and BitcoinAPI. Payments to Futurenet accounted for up to 80% of their transactional volume since 2015. The three are also registered subsidiaries of the same holding company.
This structure sets Futurenet apart from most digital currency Ponzi schemes. Chainalysis remarked, “Upon further investigation, Futurenet appears to have its own infrastructure of purpose-built shell companies to facilitate cryptocurrency payments to and from victims.”
The founders of Futurenet, Stephan Morgenstern and Roman Ziemian were last year alleged to have illegally acquired diplomatic passports from Gambia. According to local outlet What’s On Gambia, the two were listed as advisors to the Gambian government, despite never having set foot in the country.
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