Last week news emerged from Thailand that a famous actor had been involved in a crypto-currency scam that resulted in a Finnish investor losing almost $24 million in Bitcoin.
According to an investigation by Thailand’s Crime Suppression Division’s (CSD), Finnish businessman Aarni Otava Saarimaa allegedly lost almost 800 million Thai baht’s (US$23.8 million) worth of Bitcoin to the gang in a duplicitous investment scheme.
Thai actor Jiratpisit Jaravijit was arrested last week in connection with the scam and police are now hunting other members of the gang.
According to a Bangkok Post report, the saga started in June 2017 when the Finn was approached to invest in a casino and a new crypto-currency called Dragon Coin.
A casino-linked “Dragon Coin” launched in 2017 in Macau was reportedly backed by the infamous one-time triad gang leader ‘Broken Tooth’ Wan Kuok-koi. No links have been made by the Thai CSD between this case to Wan.
The CSD say they became aware of a possible scam when Saarimaa’s business partner, Thai businessman Chonnikan Kaeosali, contacted them in January. The victims were said to have been lured into buying shares in three companies that would be setting up the new casino and digital coin.
According to the Bangkok Post, 5,564 Bitcoins were transferred into seven wallets of the suspects. No investments were made and the digital currency was converted into local currency amounting to 797 million Thai baht. About one quarter of this was said to have been used to buy 14 plots of land, with the rest being deposited into bank accounts of three of the suspects, which are all siblings. A further six suspects are still being hunted by police.
Thailand’s Anti-Money Laundering Office (Amlo) claims that Bitcoin and crypto-currency is increasingly being exploited in sophisticated frauds due to the difficulty in tracing the transactions. The officer leading the investigation told reporters that “for the money laundering charge, we are verifying the amount of money with commercial banks only in the accounts of the siblings and their family and relatives. The money needs to be frozen and brought and brought back to the victims.”
According to Thai police. a total of 51 bank accounts have been seized and 14 land plots valued at 176 million baht ($US5.2 million) have been frozen as the case continues. The investigation has also involved major stock market players within the Kingdom and police are conducting house searches of those suspected of colluding with the scammers.
Thailand has warmed to crypto-currencies and the ICO industry in recent months. However, links with cybercrime and fraud will put some speed bumps in the road ahead for crypto in the Kingdom.