FIA arrests ‘digital currency scammer’

Suspect and a European woman launched Onecoin


Talib Fareedi May 20, 2021

LAHORE:

The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) has arrested a man suspected of defrauding a large number of people in Pakistan, India, Britain and United Arab Emirates through a digital currency scam.

Sources in FIA Cybercrime wing said the suspect identified as Dr Zafar was arrested in Rawalpindi. He is suspected along with an accomplice named Ruja from a European country of fleecing people of billions of rupees on the pretext of trading in the Onecoin cryptocurrency.

When the ponzi scam was exposed, Ruja fled from the UK and went into hiding, while Dr Zafar came to Pakistan and lived in different cities to evade arrest.

Hundreds of people from the UAE and within the country complained to the FIA that Dr Zafar had deprived them of billions of rupees by offering them lucrative profit for investing in the currency.

The suspect joined the European woman who was running a company and launched the Onecoin digital currency business from he UK in 2015. The sources said that he was appointed the chief executive officer of the business for the Muslim community in the UK, and Pakistan and UAE. He allegedly opened accounts for investing in diamond, gold and silver in the currency and received money in his account from not only Pakistanis living in the UK but also a large of number of Indian nationals.

He initially paid attractive profit to lure investors, but suddenly shut down all the websites and offices of the business in 2019 and went missing.

Hundreds of applications regarding the case were received by the FIA from all over the country. When an investigation was carried out, it was found that the complaints amounted to about Rs1.5 billion. Many people in the United Kingdom and UAE have also applied to the local authorities for legal action against the company, including the two suspects.

Dr Zafar went to the UK in 2009.

According to FIA Assistant Director Rizwan Arshad, when the investigation into the Onecoin fraud began, it was discovered that people had been robbed in an organised manner. The FIA earlier raided several places in Lahore, Karachi, Faisalabad and Islamabad to arrest the suspect but he escaped each time.

But this time, on the basis of a tip, they raided a house in an upscale area of Rawalpindi before the Eid and arrested him.

Several property documents, bank account details and other record was also seized from the house.

As soon as the suspect was arrested, dozens of more people contacted the officials concerned, saying they had also been robbed of millions of rupees.

An official said the losses suffered by each complainant ranged from Rs20 million to Rs150 million.

The sources said the victims of the scam also included educated people who had lost their savings. The suspects had taken advantage of lack of awareness among the people and a hype about the increasing value of Bitcoin, they added.

An official said other agencies concerned had also been informed about the FIA investigation.

The FIA sources said the British and UAE authorities might also seek access to the suspect because he had deprived people from the countries of a large amount and his accomplice was still at large.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 20th, 2021.

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