CRYPTO CURRENCY NEWS: Crypto Scams that Rocked Asia to the Core, Part 2: PlusToken

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Asia has been through more than its fair share of nasty crypto scam dramas, from the Mt. Gox scandal right through to 2021 and its plethora of AI-powered fraudsters.

In part 2 of a three-part series, looks at just a few of the continent’s most infamous instances of crypto fraud. (Here’s part 1. )


2018 was a golden year for crypto scammers in Asia. Few could ever hope to surpass the success of PlusToken which is a token wallet that offers benefits. In the first months of 2018, Chen Bo led a group that launched the PlusToken. The idea was, a little like BitConnect, you put your bitcoin (BTC) in the Plus wallet and watch it grow – with huge monthly payments.

The twist here, however, was that you could also deposit ethereum (ETH) in your wallet. You can increase your monthly returns using the tried-and-true pyramid tradition by adding more tokens to your account, or recruiting family members, friends, and acquaintances to become members.

There was also a token named plus that you could swap your hard-earned ETH and BTC for if you wanted extra credit. Monthly payouts, the PlusToken masterminds claimed, could rise as high as 30%.

By 2019, an international network of PlusToken partners had sprung up, with bases all around China, as well as elsewhere in Asia. South Korea, Singapore, and Japan proved fertile hunting grounds for those seeking to climb higher up the Plus pyramid.

In 2019 alone, PlusToken had raked in a cool USD 2bn. Operators were running wild on WeChat, where multilingual PlusToken group chats attracted new investors every day.

There were investment seminars and workshops, and some promoters even posted about the virtues of PlusToken in hundreds of East Asian convenience stores, photo studios, and supermarkets.

The Chinese authorities, who had enacted a crypto crackdown in September 2017, took a dim view of matters, and launched an investigation. They believed that organizers were using tokens from new investors to pay monthly payments, just like Charles Ponzi’s eponymous scheme.

They turned out to be right.

By March 2019, some investors started complaining that they were having problems withdrawing their funds. Four months later, six Chinese PlusToken bigwigs, including Cheng Bo, were arrested in Vanuatu, the Daily Post reported.

CRYPTO CURRENCY NEWS: Where are they now?

Chinese police spent months – almost years – trying to take PlusToken down. Problem was, the Vanuatu Six turned out to be only one of the hydra. The problem was that the Vanuatu Six proved to be just one head of the hydra. As such, new leaders emerged around the globe and the scam continued almost as if nothing had ever happened. Indeed, despite the arrests, the project continued to run wild in nations like South Korea.

But behind the scenes, the police were hard at work. Finally, after 12 months of searching and international operations in Cambodia, Vietnam, and Malaysia, officers were ready to close in. They finally made their move at the end of July last year, arresting 27 individuals and later claiming that they had “completely destroyed” PlusToken

Per the South China Morning Post, the Intermediate People’s Court in Yancheng, Jiangsu Province, eventually sentenced the ringleaders to 11 years behind bars. What was the extent of the damage? The government said the PlusToken was 3,000 levels deep and that the total value of the crypto involved “exceeded USD 5.7 billion.”
Part 3 of the series will be published next week.

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