South Pacific churches caught up in billion dollar cryptocurrency scam
Churches have long been targets for scams and those looking for a trusting group to prey on. However, this scam appears to be different, as the churches involved are reportedly the perpetrators.
According to CCN, an intelligence report released by the New Zealand Financial Intelligence Unit (NZFIU) has accused two large churches in the Asia Pacific region of assisting in the proliferation of the OneCoin cryptocurrency scam.
Cryptocurrency has been controversial since its inception and to this day, the jury is out on whether this is a legitimate investment opportunity, or one big scam.
The Central Bank of Samoa (CBS) released a statement, in which they stated, “The Central Bank of Samoa, through its Financial Intelligence Unit, recently received a spontaneous intelligence report from the New Zealand Financial Intelligence Unit (NZFIU) regarding the OneCoin operations. The 124 page Intelligence Report notes the following main elements:
1. OneCoin is labelled as a “Hybrid Ponzi-Pyramid Scheme” because the scam contains ingredients of both types of scams – Ponzi Scheme and Pyramid Scheme.
2. Because of the CBS prohibition on all OneCoin transactions in May 2018, NZFIU have formulated the view that this propelled the financial problem in NZ. That is, OneCoin has circumvented Samoa’s financial system (because of our blockages on all OneCoin transactions at all Financial Institutions in 2018),and have opted to use the NZ Financial System to conduct their businesses and transfers.
3. NZFIU have estimated that $3.5m NZD was transferred out of NZ.
4. The target of OneCoin is through the Churches. There are two large churches that were used in OneCoin operations. These two Churches, although originated in Samoa, have branches in New Zealand and Australia, thereby affecting the Pasefika community. This is why NZFIU have formulated the view that public education on the issue would be futile because the Church Ministers are the promoters, and they are held out to be trustworthy, hence,people of the congregation will follow suit.”
One Coin has been called a Ponzi scheme, promoted as a cryptocoin with a private blockchain, by offshore companies. The company was founded by Ruja Ignatova in concert with Sebastian Greenwood. OneCoin is considered a Ponzi scheme, both due to its organizational structure and because of many of the people who are central to OneCoin have previously been involved in other similar Ponzi schemes.
US prosecutors have alleged the scheme brought in $4 billion worldwide from victims. In China, law enforcement recovered 1.7 billion yuan (US$267.5 million) while prosecuting 98 people for the scam. Ruja Ignatova disappeared in 2017 and was replaced by her brother, Konstantin Ignatov, near the time a secret US warrant was filed for her arrest. The majority of the top leaders have now disappeared or have been arrested. Konstantin Ignatov was arrested in March 2019 and Sebastian Greenwood in 2018.
CBS said that bank accounts belonging to the churches had been used to launder money. The bank accounts belong to Worship Centre and the Samoan Independent Seventh Day Adventist Church.
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