Hundreds of Indonesians report getting ripped off by Bitcoin investment scam

Photo illustration. Photo: Pixabay
Photo illustration. Photo: Pixabay

Much has been written about the potential profits and pitfalls in investing in cryptocurrencies, especially Bitcoin. A group of investors in Indonesia decided to get on the Bitcoin train by putting money into an investment network known as BTC Panda but say they got ripped off by the outfit and are now trying to get help from Indonesian authorities to recover their losses.

One group of investors, all from Indonesia’s Bangka Belitung Islands, say that they collectively invested a total of 1,695 Bitcoin but have only see about 200 Bitcoins returned to them so far.

“We hope that this case can be investigated thoroughly. The distribution of profits is not what we were promised,” said the head of Bangka’s BTC Panda investment group, Andre Efendy, at Bangka Belitung’s Regional Police Headquarters on Thursday as quoted by Kompas.

Andre told the media he was at the police station to follow-up on the progress of the investigation as he he had actually reported the case to them some time ago, including personal losses of IDR 480 million (US$34,000) in total. He said that his group had already sent legals demands to the management of BTC Panda in Malaysia but, until now, had only received 200 Bitcoins in compensation.

According to Andre, when his investors initially bought into the scheme, the value of a single Bitcoin was about IDR 5 million, whereas now the value was about IDR 53 million.

Andre said that he had been tricked into trusting BTC Panda’s promises of huge returns on investment, especially after the group invited him and a number of other investors from Belitung to a lavish celebration in Malaysia in 2016, complete with luxurious hotel stays and Lamborghinis for transportation.

Andre also told the media that the 1,695 Bitcoins purchased through BTC Panda was only from his Bangka-based investment group, whereas he estimated that around 5,000 coins worth of investments had been made from people from all over Indonesia. He said similar fraud reports had been made in other regions of the country.

The director of the Bangka Belitung Regional Police’s Criminal Directorate, Commissioner Budi Hariyanto, confirmed that his unit was still investigating the case but did not disclose what, if any, advances had been made.  He also warned the public to be careful about where they invested and recommended they only put money into investment instruments that were properly licensed by government financial institutions, unlike BTC Panda.

In April, the Investment Alert Task Force blocked the BTC Panda trading platform in Indonesia after receiving reports from the public and determining that that the platform did not have legal permission to operate in the country.

After initial moves to block Bitcoin and crytocurrencies entirely, the Indonesian government has more recently said that it would attempt to regulate them as commodities.

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