Chinese authorities have reportedly arrested all 27 key executives allegedly running the massive PlusToken cryptocurrency Ponzi scheme, in an operation led by the country’s top police agency, the Ministry of Public Security.
According to Chinese financial news outlet CLS, the investigation led to the arrest of another 82 core members of the Ponzi scheme, which is said to have over 3,000 layers and affected over 2 million investors using cryptocurrencies like bitcoin and ether.
While it was previously believed PlusToken managed to scam investors out of $3 billion worth of crypto, CLS reports that it managed to make 40 billion yuan, at press time worth about $5.7 billion.
This is the first case in which Chinese police crackdown on a major international Ponzi scheme that used cryptocurrencies. Authorities have started investigating the case last year, and had already arrested six individuals alleged tied to the Ponzi scheme. The 109 key executives and core members that were now arrested fled the country at the time.
PlusToken was allegedly operating from Vanuatu, but the 109 arrests were reportedly made throughout the world, likely with the cooperation of other agencies. The PlusToken Ponzi scheme is believed to have been the biggest in the cryptocurrency space, and attracted investors by promising them high yields on their investments.
Payments stopped in June 2019, and the funds associated with the scheme started moving to other wallets. At the time the scheme’s operators left investors with the message “sorry we have to run,” triggering an international investigation.
PlusToken had a major following in China and Korea and grew partly thanks to its strong referral element, giving out significant bonuses to investors who referred others. The scheme also grew by hosting conferences and meetups promoting the token to investors.
As of April 2020, screenshots were circulating on Chinese social media of a supposed notice announcing the launch of a new PlusToken app. Whether the scheme is still active is unclear.
Featured image via Pixabay.