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Ponzi-like OneCoin trading scheme swindles many in Vietnam

Thursday, November 17, 2016, 16:39 GMT+7

OneCoin, a cryptocurrency widely associated with Ponzi-like fraud around the world, has managed to form a market in Vietnam, where local ‘investors’ are spending money in the hope of becoming overnight euro millionaires.

Cryptocurrency, such as the popular BitCoin, is a digital asset designed to work as a medium of exchange using cryptography to secure transactions and to control the creation of additional units of the currency.

OneCoin, promoted by OneCoin Ltd, a Gibraltar-based company led by Bulgarian Ruja Ignatova, has been described as a get-rich-quick scheme similar to the Ponzi scheme.

Despite this, OneCoin is the cryptocurrency that has attracted the most ‘investors’ in Vietnam. OneCoin members are invited to use real money to invest in the virtual currency with a promise that the initial investment will deliver huge profits quickly.

The Vietnamese OneCoin network is run via a ‘financial exchange’ called Bamboo, with members residing all over the country, from Hanoi and Hai Duong in the north, Phu Yen in the central part to Ho Chi Minh City and An Giang in the southern region.

Ponzi-like scheme

Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper reporters attempted to join the Bamboo network in Vietnam, and were asked to buy the virtual currency at an initial price of around €0.6 per coin.

The OneCoin forum said after one year, the OneCoin price would skyrocket, bringing large profits to investors.

For instance, according to the forum, by the second quarter of next year, the virtual currency will have fetched €20 (US$22.15).

If an investor chooses the VIP package, they will pay an initial €33,600 to obtain 56,000 OneCoin units, and later reap €1.12 million ($1.24 million) once the price rises from €0.6 to €20.

In the fourth quarter of 2017, according to the scheme, OneCoin’s value will continue to surge to €30, meaning the VIP investor will rake in €1.7 million.

As it sounds like easy money, many locals have been lured into joining the OneCoin network, and are all looking forward to becoming 'euro millionaires' in the next six months.

One of them, L.M.T., who joined the scheme with an initial investment of VND66 million ($2,946) in January this year, said that making money has never been so easy.

“By the end of 2017, I can sit at home, log onto the OneCoin forum to trade my currencies, and [real] money will start flooding into my bank account,” he said.

The Vietnamese OneCoin community also offers big commissions to members who invite new investors to join the scheme.

The OneCoin forum quotes a local lawmaker as allegedly saying that OneCoin will soon be chosen as the sixth reserve currency of the world, duping even more people into investing in the scheme.

While the cryptocurrency has been around in Vietnam for less than two years, it currently has more than 65,000 paying members.

But few of these OneCoin investors are aware that they are victims of a Ponzi scheme, where the scheme’s runners pay early investors using the investments of later ones.

Clear signs of fraud

Besides the virtual currency trading scheme, OneCoin Vietnam also invites members to join its cash-based financial investment scheme, where an investment of VND5 million ($223) will result in a dividend of VND6.5 million ($290) after only ten days.

One network member revealed to the Tuoi Tre journalists that investors have to provide personal information, including their photograph, ID card and bank account, to become a member.

However, OneCoin members never know who they give their money to, and who will pay them the ‘interest’ either. All transactions are conducted online and no investors really know where the network operator Bamboo is headquartered.

In fact, Bamboo has stopped paying interest to its investors since September, with some members lamenting that they had no way of contacting any responsible person behind the scheme.

Tran Thi Linh Dung, dean of the banking department under the Phu Yen branch of the Banking Academy, said the OneCoin scheme is a credit fraud that targets people’s greed.

“What’s more dangerous than giving money to someone you don’t know, and then waiting for that unknown person to pay you back?” she said.

Trinh Anh Tuan, deputy head of the competition authority under the Ministry of Industry and Trade, said his agency had transferred all information regarding the OneCoin scheme and Bamboo to the Ministry of Public Security for investigation.

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