Four local men were arrested last week for setting up a plot to cheat an overseas Chinese out of the equivalent of HK$15 million in a cryptocurrency deal, Judiciary Police (PJ) spokesman Choi Ian Fai said at a special press conference on Saturday.
According to Choi, the four suspects were members of a currency exchange gang: a 31-year-old businessman surnamed Tam, the suspected kingpin of the gang; a 30-year-old jobless man surnamed Chio; a 36-year-old jobless man surnamed Lei; and a 48-year-old man surnamed Kou who told the police that he works as a junket operator.
Choi said that the suspect surnamed Tam and another man went to a police station on October 19 to tell the police that their “friend” had been cheated out of HK$15 million in a currency exchange deal.
Tam said that he and Lei had assisted a friend (the victim) who was in Dubai on that day to exchange USDT cryptocurrency worth about HK$15 million into casino cash chips.
Since his “friend” (the victim) was in Dubai, he had asked a friend of his to witness the deal which took place outside a casino in Nape. Chio, whose job it was to exchange the chips, arrived at the scene and showed more than 20 chips worth HK$500,000 each to Tam, Lei and the victim’s friend.
After the witness had checked all the chips, the victim then transferred the USDT cryptocurrency to an account provided by Chio. However, Chio told Tam, Lei and the victim’s friend (the witness) that he had not received the transfer and refused to give them the chips. The men then started to quarrel and Tam suggested taking the chips to a VIP casino room in Cotai to confirm their authenticity. When the men arrived at the casino, Chio suddenly got in a taxi and fled the scene. Afterwards, Tam and the victim’s friend reported the case to the police.
Thanks to CCTV footage, the Judiciary Police identified Chio. PJ officers discovered that after Chio had left the scene, he immediately met Kou and Lei in a car park of a building in Ilha Verde where he was paid HK$1.5 million in cash, Choi said.
PJ officers later confirmed that it was Tam who had set up the plot. He pretended to help the victim exchange the cryptocurrency into chips and, conversely, he secretly looked for a buyer who had offered HK$7 million to buy the cryptocurrency or less than half of the original price. The account provided by Chio to the victim for the transfer of cryptocurrency turned out to be the buyer’s account, according to Choi.
Choi said after the victim had transferred the cryptocurrency to the buyer’s account, the buyer met Lei outside another casino in Nape and paid him HK$7 million in cash. Lei and Kou then went to a car park in Ilha Verde to meet Chio who received HK$1.5 million for his “services” in carrying out the fraud.
According to Choi, after the victim came to Macao in late November to confirm the case, PJ officers arrested the four suspects on Thursday and Friday in Areia Preta, Fai Chi Kei and Ilha Verde districts. The quartet refused to cooperate with the police. PJ officers seized their smartphones and some cash. Besides, drug-taking paraphernalia was found in Chio’s home in Areia Preta. Chio admitted to taking drugs and his urine drug test was positive. The police are still looking for the HK$7 million, according to Choi.
HK$28 million seized from ‘buyer’ suspected of money laundering
Meanwhile, the Judiciary Police discovered that the buyer of the cryptocurrency is suspected of involvement in money laundering and obtained a search order of his home in Nape. PJ officers seized HK$28 million in cash, 50,000 euros, casino chips worth HK$15 million, six computers, a large quantity of smartphones, a number of brand named watches and accounting books. The Judiciary Police are continuing their investigation into the case and are looking for the “buyer” who was on the run at the time of the press conference.
The quartet was transferred to the Public Prosecutions Office (MP) on Saturday, facing charges of fraud and organised crimes while Chio also faces charges of illegal use of narcotic and psychotropic substances and possession of drug-taking paraphernalia, according to Choi.
According to Investopedia, Tether (USDT) is a blockchain-based cryptocurrency whose crypto coins in circulation are backed by an equivalent amount of traditional fiat currencies, like the US dollar, the euro or the Japanese yen, which are held in a designated bank account. Tether tokens, the native tokens of the Tether network, trade under the USDT symbol.
Tether belongs to a new breed of cryptocurrencies called stablecoins aiming to keep cryptocurrency valuations stable, as opposed to the wide swings observed in the prices of other popular cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum. That would allow it to be used as a medium of exchange and a mode of storage of value, instead of being used as a medium of speculative investments, according to Investopedia.
(The Macau Post Daily/Macao News)
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