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General News of Tuesday, 20 August 2019


1,000 investors chase $2m locked-up cash in Bitdax Global ‘scam’

More than 1,000 clients who invested various sums of money with Bitdax Global, an online trading company, are chasing after their locked-up cash from the Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Mr Richard Gyasi (Cryptoking) and his associate, Kwesi Otoo Mensah (Paa Kwesi Menz or PK), more than one year after investing.

Bitdax Global started operations in 2017 and acquired a business licence as a trading company from the Registrar General’s office on 14 June 2018 but was unregistered by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). The firm was located on the 7th floor of the GNAT Heights, Independence Avenue, Accra.

The defunct company, which said it invested in online forex trading, including cryptocurrencies, had multiple investment packages for its clients and had reward systems for leaders who introduced others to the business in a multi-level marketing system. The company also had a subsidiary, FX Masters, an academy for training members of the public who had an interest in online forex trading.

The primary investment package was a 1 per cent profit, which was later reviewed to 0.5 per cent per each successful trading day, which excluded holidays and weekends on a minimum investment amount of $50 dollars in the form of tokens which expired in 200 trading days. Clients could cash out their profits every Friday of the month after a minimum profit accumulation of $10 via mobile money, bitcoin or etheruem. Close to 1,000 customers are reported to have invested in this package and received guaranteed returns from January 2018 until the company went bust in September that year.

Additionally, the company introduced a 100% Pool Challenge with a minimum entry of $1,000 which was later reviewed to $500 and a maximum entry of $10,000 per each investor with the promise of a 100% profit within a period of five months. Trading for the 100% Pool Challenge was supposed to start in August 2018 and end on 20 December 2018 after which the participants would get their principal in addition to the profits. Clients paid their monies directly into the Ecobank and Barclays bank accounts of Mr Mensah, who supervised the pool trades.

However, the trading account was poorly managed and Mr Mensah reportedly told the clients in November 2018, a month to maturity that 90% of their investments had been lost in trades. According to the clients, they were informed by Mr Mensah, through a videoconferencing app Zoom that he was putting in place measures to recover the losses and pay the principals of the investment to the affected clients.

Some of the clients, who trade forex individually apart from the investment at Bitdax, said they were baffled by the alleged loss of their funds as claimed by the officials of Bitdax because there is always a stop-gap measure on every online forex trading platform, which ensures that losses do not exceed a specified limit.

Not satisfied with the response, and unable to reach Cryptoking and Mr Mensah, some of the affected clients filed a complaint at the Cyber Unit of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) of the Ghana Police Service on 28 December 2018.

Cryptoking and Mr Mensah were invited to assist with investigations but six months after the formal complaints, the victims have been lamenting the slow pace of the police in ensuring that the culprits are prosecuted and the monies retrieved.

This prompted Mr Frank Otoo, a victim, to petition the Police Professional and Standard Bureau (PPBS) on 11 July 2019 about the delay in the investigations.

Meanwhile, a civil case has been commenced simultaneously against the leaders of Bitdax Global, who have cut communication with the clients and they are scheduled to appear for mediation on 13 August 2019 at the Legal Aid Commission head office in Accra.

Mr Evans Kwakye, a businessman resident in Tarkwa, Western Region, who invested in the Bitdax 100% Pool Challenge for himself, his wife and a friend, has $2,500 in total locked up.

He told on Wednesday, 24 July 2019 that he is aware of a pastor who also invested $25,000. The worried businessman said: “I have lost so much in investments so when you talk about this one, too, you can imagine”.

Mr Kwakye further explained that an estimated $1.5 million had been invested by clients across the country in the primary investment package while $500,000 had been locked up in the Bitdax 100% Pool Challenge.

He pointed out that by the time they realised that the whole scheme could be a scam, it was too late. Nonetheless, he disclosed that they sought intervention from SEC.

He stressed that the aggrieved group of investors “are seeking our money because that was what they [Bitdax] promised”.

For him, it was time to ensure others do not fall victim to the same company and to create awareness because it has been alleged that the company was still running similar investments and taking cash from the public.

“Many people will lose like we have if we do not advocate,” he pointed out.

He further revealed that: “For Bitdax, I have learnt about five people, some have had stroke and others”.

Another victim, who does not want the identity disclosed, explained that: “What the CID has been telling us is that PK says we should give him time to pay us back. Actually, he was supposed to pay us in March 2019. March-ending there was no show and we were [subsequently] told that he is going to give us 80 per cent of our capital by the end of June 2019 but the platform that we belong has been muted since”.

The aggrieved client, who invested GHS35,000 in the Bitdax 100% Pool Challenge and GHS3,500 in the normal investment package, complained that: “This issue has caused me psychological and emotional trauma. I could go on and on; the cost to me is endless. I have gone through a lot and it has been difficult for me”.

Another irate customer said he paid $2,000 via the Barclays Bank account of Mr Mensah as principal and was determined to retrieve his investments.

“We had a call on Zoom and he [Mr Mensah] said the thing has failed, we have lost 90 per cent of our funds,” he narrated.

He continued: “[Mr Mensah] said he will draw a roadmap to pay, starting from this year January. But up till now, we have not heard from him. We were in a group chat; he has locked the page and nobody is able to communicate with him anymore. We don’t hear from him and those who have lost a huge amount of money are now taking action”.

Meanwhile, the Public Relations Officer of the CID, DSP Juliana Obeng, has confirmed that the Cyber Crime Unit is investigating the case.

She told Class91.3FM’s Mercy Obeng-Akrofi that the officers are preparing separate dockets on the case due to the huge number of victims.

She disclosed that the slow pace of the case was as a result of the compilation of numerous statements filed at the CID headquarters by some of the victims.

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