Austrian bitcoin fraud investigation goes Europe wide

Published:  5 Apr at 6 PM
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Austrian financial authorities investigating a suspected cryptocurrency pyramid scheme related to bitcoins are requesting Interpol join the search for those behind the fraud.

Centred in Vienna, the investigation is now considering whether other European countries have also been targeted by a recently-discovered bitcoin-related scam. Interpol has been asked to join in the investigation amid fears the fraud has spread across Europe and involved more than the initial hundreds of victims in Austria. According to spokesperson for the Vienna public prosecutor’s office Christina Ratz, the Optioment bitcoin dealing scam has already affected several hundred complainants, with local media claiming cross-Europe victims could run into the thousands.

At the present time, two Austrians have been identified and are being accused of fraud, but more suspects are believed to still be at large. Promised returns for investing bitcoins in the convoluted scheme were set from two to four per cent per week, and dividends were actually offered before the scam collapsed late last year, The Austrian financial watchdog informed prosecutors about Optiment in January, citing the possibility of a pyramid scheme, violations of capital market laws or straightforward fraud.

Investors were urged to find new investors on a personal basis using a well-known multi-level marketing strategy. One unfortunate brought in her entire family, putting in 50 bitcoins, all of which have now disappeared, with another telling of a promotion event at a Vienna hotel and saying the approach was more like a cult. Reports suggest some 12,000 bitcoins were invested, with a total value of around 95 million euros at the present time and double that amount at the height of the recent bitcoin boom. It’s not yet known how many expats were caught up in the scam, but reports suggest its spread to Germany and Switzerland.
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