South African regulator, the National Consumer Commission (NCC) recently disclosed that it has unraveled a pyramid scheme known as ‘Obelisk’ which is a famous crypto mining company that defrauded over 4,000 citizens about $6 million.
Obelisk is a company that was established by a part of the team that worked on the Siacoin cryptocurrency. The main goal of the Obelisk developers is to build a community where ASIC mining is a preferable way of gaining coins.
After a series of complaints by investors, the NCC disclosed that it had to swing into action by investigating the activities of the company. Noting that most of its victims were gotten from different social media platforms.
Investors on the platform disclosed that they were charged between $18.75 and $24,000 per mining equipment on the platform which the NCC described as an outrageous amount. As if that was not enough, they were also asked to pay a certain initial fee at the point of registration which was undisclosed.
Also, for investors to be able to withdraw their funds, again they are mandated to pay another fee to upgrade their mining equipment.
In all of this, South African Regulator NCC disclosed that the company paid a smaller portion of the investor’s returns on their first investments to convince them to invest higher fees which is a gimmick synonymous with pyramid schemes to lure more investors.
However, problems began when investors discovered that the withdrawal button on their profiles had been suddenly deactivated making it impossible for them to withdraw their earnings.
In a bid to inquire about the issue, they were blocked and removed from the community groups they were added to. Also, the NCC disclosed that WhatsApp groups that investors were added to were estimated to be more than 20.
Investment in the crypto market has been growing across the globe which has also led to an increase in crypto scams and theft, as it was reported that over $10 billion was lost globally in 2021.
Crypto Money Laundering Down by 29% in 2023
According to recent findings from blockchain research firm Chainalysis, cryptocurrency money laundering activities experienced a significant downturn in 2023, dropping by 29% compared to the previous year.
In the report released on Thursday illicit funds laundered through cryptocurrency exchanges plummeted from $31.5 billion in 2022 to $22.2 billion in 2023.
Chainalysis attributed this decline to a general reduction in both legitimate and illicit crypto transaction volumes throughout the year.
The research platform highlighted that centralized exchanges remained the primary destination for funds originating from illicit sources, a trend that has persisted over the past five years.
However, there was a notable shift in the distribution of illicit funds, with an increasing proportion flowing into decentralized finance (DeFi) protocols.
The report suggested that this shift was influenced by the transparency inherent in DeFi platforms, making them less favorable for concealing the movement of funds compared to traditional exchanges.
Furthermore, Chainalysis noted changes in the methods used for laundering illicit cryptocurrency.
The report observed a significant rise in funds being channeled through cross-chain bridges from addresses associated with stolen funds.
Also, there was a notable increase in funds originating from ransomware attacks being directed towards gambling platforms and bridge protocols.
In terms of concentration, the report highlighted that 109 exchange deposit addresses received over $10 million worth of illicit cryptocurrency each, collectively receiving $3.4 billion in illicit funds in 2023.
This represents a considerable increase compared to 2022 when only 40 addresses received similar amounts.
The findings underscore evolving trends in cryptocurrency laundering and signal a growing sophistication in illicit financial activities within the digital asset space.
Regulatory bodies and law enforcement agencies continue to grapple with emerging challenges posed by crypto-related crimes as the landscape evolves.
Binance Reaffirms Commitment to Fraud-Free Trading Amid Nigeria’s Currency Concerns
In response to growing concerns about exchange rate manipulation in Nigeria, Binance, one of the world’s leading cryptocurrency platforms, has issued a resolute statement reaffirming its commitment to maintaining a fraud-free trading environment.
The announcement comes amidst reports of heightened tensions regarding the devaluation of the Nigerian currency and suspicions of illicit activities on digital asset platforms.
Binance emphasized its dedication to providing users with a market-driven, transparent, and manipulation-free platform.
The company stressed its unwavering responsibility to safeguard users against fraudulent behavior and ensure the integrity of the trading ecosystem.
Binance asserted that any users found engaging in malicious or manipulative activities would face swift removal from the platform in line with its zero-tolerance policy for market manipulation.
The cryptocurrency exchange also highlighted its ongoing investment in enhancing processes and tools aimed at preventing fraudulent practices.
Measures include setting upper limits for advertisements, implementing rigorous ad screening procedures, and increasing deposit requirements for merchants posting ads.
As industry leaders, Binance reiterated its commitment to working closely with stakeholders to promote innovation while prioritizing user protection.
The platform assured users of its adherence to strict global security protocols across all products and services offered.
Binance’s statement underscores its proactive stance in addressing concerns related to market manipulation, emphasizing transparency, accountability, and the preservation of market integrity in Nigeria’s evolving cryptocurrency landscape.
Meanwhile, there were unconfirmed reports that the Nigerian government is considering blocking Binance and other cryptocurrency platforms amid concerns over alleged forex market manipulation and illicit financial activities.
Nigeria Mulls Blocking Binance, Crypto Platforms Over Forex Manipulation
Nigeria’s government is contemplating the drastic step of blocking Binance and other cryptocurrency platforms amid concerns over alleged forex market manipulation and illicit financial activities.
According to officials familiar with the matter, the move comes as the Nigerian currency experiences an unprecedented depreciation to an all-time low of N1,800 against the dollar in the parallel market.
Presidential and regulatory sources have cited reports indicating that currency speculators and money launderers are exploiting platforms like Binance to orchestrate criminal activities, which are believed to be contributing to the naira’s weakening.
Binance, a prominent digital assets platform, facilitates peer-to-peer transactions, allowing users to advertise their interest in buying or selling currencies.
Despite a warning issued by Nigeria’s Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in September 2023, cautioning against Binance’s operations as illegal, the platform continued to operate, drawing significant patronage, especially among urban youths and suspected speculators and money launderers.
Officials have raised concerns not only about economic sabotage but also about national security implications as these platforms are reportedly used by criminal groups for activities such as ransom payments.
Law enforcement sources have described the exploitation of digital asset platforms as a sophisticated scheme against the Nigerian economy, involving the manipulation of forex values through fake deals to influence market dynamics.
A senior executive at the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) emphasized the troubling trend of the naira’s depreciation, attributing it to artificial devaluation caused by speculative sites like Binance.
The potential ban on Binance and other crypto firms could follow actions taken by other countries like Malaysia, France, and Malta, which have implemented restrictions on such platforms due to similar concerns.
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