Chinese prosecutors have charged the last four suspects in a total 98 individuals involved in an estimated $2.3 billion domestic OneCoin operation, a purported digital currency scheme widely seen as a fraud.
According to a news release by the Zhuzhou Procuratorate’s office in the Hunan province, a two-year investigation into a colossal pyramid scheme that spanned twenty Chinese provinces has seen over 100 arrests of individuals involved in OneCoin, known as ‘Weika Coin’ in China.
The report reveals that authorities examined 106 suspects in total before publicly prosecuting 98 individuals in total including the recent prosecutions for soliciting money from investors that may have totaled some 15 billion yuan, a little over $2.3 billion in current prices. A number of those prosecuted have already been sentenced to four years in prison for organizing and leading the pyramid scheme with fines ranging from 10,000 yuan to 5 million yuan (between $1,500 – $780,000 approximately).
The bust, authorities claim, is the largest MLM case ever investigated in the Hunan province with some 20,000 bank accounts analyzed to look into “tens of millions” of transactions over the course of the two-year investigation.
As of May this year, the OneCoin operation in China reportedly contained over 140 member levels with some 2 million registered member accounts funding capital through 27 pool accounts, Chinese publication Legal Daily revealed.
State-funded publication The Paper adds that a total of 119 suspects were arrested in connection with the pyramid scheme. Authorities have, so far, managed to recover nearly 1.7 billion yuan (approx. $266 million).
Founded by Ruja Ignatova, a Bulgarian national, OneCoin has been heavily scrutinized by a number of global law enforcement agencies for years. Authorities in Belgium, Hungary and the UK warned the public against OneCoin in 2016. . In June 2017, Indian police charged her and five other senior OneCoin promoters, labeling it a “clear ponzi scheme.”
Earlier this year, the Bulgarian Special Prosecutor’s Office raided local offices as a part of a wider international crackdown on the fraudulent scheme.