Over a dozen suspects arrested for cryptocurrency fraud

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(By CNA photo)

More than a dozen suspects have been arrested by police in New Taipei for creating a cryptocurrency scam that took millions of dollars from unsuspecting investors, the Criminal Investigation Bureau (CIB) said Saturday.

Li Chi-hsun (李奇勳), chief of the CIB's 7th Investigation Corps, said at a press conference that police nabbed 15 suspects, including the main leader surnamed Lin (林), in two separate raids carried out on Jan. 9 and Jan. 17.

The group running the scam allegedly defrauded over 30 people in Taiwan and amassed nearly NT$250 million (US$8.13 million) in illicit gains through an IBCoin investment scheme, according to the CIB.

IBCoin is a cryptocurrency similar to Bitcoin, which is the world's most popular virtual currency but is currently banned in Taiwan.

During the raids, law enforcement officers also seized NT$2.02 million in cash, three automobiles, and written guidelines on fraud procedures.

The case was first brought to the authorities' attention in September 2018 when a victim reported that he had been tricked into buying NT$600,000 worth of IBCoins.

According to the bureau, Lin purchased IBCoins through his connections in China at a rate of NT$1.5 per unit in 2017.

He would then ask the people working for him to sell them at NT$50-NT$100 per unit to victims while promising customers that they would earn big returns.

The group of fraudsters would often pretend to show off their earnings through Facebook, posting pictures of lavish lifestyles and expensive cars to lure them into buying more IBCoins, investigators said.

But none of the victims have reported ever seeing any returns, the CIB said.

Based on its investigation, the CIB said the virtual currency is a dud and has no real value, and that there are currently no known companies that trade or deal in IBCoins.

The 15 suspects have been charged with fraud, and the case has been handed over to the Taipei District Prosecutors Office, the bureau said.