Two churches in the South Pacific are at the center of a fight between governments around the world and a beleaguered cryptocurrency called OneCoin, now accused of scamming its way to billions in revenue.
With its founders facing charges of fraud and money laundering, the crypto con went looking for a way into the tiny island nation of Samoa. It found one in Christian congregations where pastors could preach the wonders of a newfangled get-rich-quick plan.
“In these communities there is an enhanced sense of family and community bonds and with that comes a very strong sense of trust,” Auckland, New Zealand-based lawyer Campbell Pentney told Samoa News. “And of course, trust can be exploited by these scams.”
Though some investors from the Samoa Worship Centre Christian Church and an Auckland branch of the Samoan Independent Seventh Day Adventist Church (SISDAC) hold out hope to see their money again, the sense of exploitation is growing as hundreds of poor Christians who jumped at an opportunity endorsed by trusted leaders now call the scheme “risky” and “unprofessional.”
“If it seems too good to be true, it’s too good to be true,” Ed Moy, who directed the US Mint from 2006 to 2011, told CT. “Cryptocurrency in many ways is just a much more efficient mechanism [for making transactions], but a scam is still a scam.”
And for a scam that aimed to haul massive profits from behind a pulpit, believers looking for a miracle may have seemed the perfect target.
“The target of OneCoin is through the churches,” the Central Bank of Samoa (CBS) said in a statement last month. Though some church leaders claim they were victims, the bank concluded they knowingly engaged in fraud and that their accounts were used as part of OneCoin money-laundering scheme involving more than $2 million.
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