Further details are emerging about an alleged Japanese crypto scam that may have sucked in between 15,000 and 20,000 mainly middle-aged investors.
As reported, police in Aichi Prefecture are continuing to investigate a company named OZ Project after officers arrested four men, believed to be the masterminds behind the alleged scam.
The ringleader is believed to be Shoji Ishida (59). And per Chunichi, police sources say they have information that Ishida first launched the initiative back in the spring of 2017, when he allegedly began enlisting “certified instructors” to hold “seminars” for would-be investors in various locations around Japan. A number of online promotional efforts also helped recruit investors, who were told to expect profits of x2.5 using the OZ Project’s AI-powered trading bots.
Media outlets have published varying accounts of the number of people who may have been duped into investing in the company, with Mainichi putting the figure at 15,000 and Asahi stating 20,000. But most agree that some USD 59m – USD 60m worth of investor funds appear to be at risk.
Police have told the Japanese media that the OZ Project appears to be entirely “fictitious” and centers around an OZ point token – which appears to have no monetary value. Officers claim that the project does not appear to have a blockchain network – a common feature among proven crypto-flavored scams such as the OneCoin project.
In September 2017, police say, Ishida ordered instructors to delete posts and blogs they had made about the project, clearly aware that trouble was on its way.
But the project appears to have rumbled on in the time since, although a number of civil lawsuits have been filed.
The suspected masterminds were all described as white-collar workers, and the oldest of the group, a 61-year-old, reportedly (per a separate Mainichi article) attempted to blackmail one victim who was on the verge of going public, sending the following warning through a third party:
“If you take this matter to the police […], you will not be able to reclaim your stake.”
Tokai TV reported that police claim that funds have been remitted to an overseas account, but are continuing to investigate, while most of the alleged victims are reportedly “men and women in their 50s.”
Tokyo Web quoted an anonymous “couple in their 50s” as stating that they had realized the project was “fraudulent” as early as October 2017, and had been involved in efforts to retrieve their funds ever since. Some of the alleged masterminds appeared to have attempted to throw investors off the scent by claiming they too had been the victim of “deceit.”
The OZ executives allegedly claimed their project was being backed and “supervised” by a major “Singapore-based cryptocurrency exchange,” and that their AI-powered transactions were “90%” profitable.
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