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As published on Radio New Zealand, New Zealand’s Department of Internal Affairs (DIA) is investigating the Auckland branch of the Samoan Independent Seventh Day Adventist Church (SISDAC) over its connections to the shady cryptocurrency venture OneCoin whose leader is already indicted in court.
One investigation was carried out by Samoa’s Central Bank into the church. However, a separate investigation (carried out by DIA) was conducted under the Charities Act 2005, and was not focused on the church’s links to the cryptocurrency fraud OneCoin.
OneCoin has routinely been in the crypto news cycle ever since it was launched in 2014, and various countries have already banned OneCoin and labeled it as a fraudulent cryptocurrency scheme. Previously, the United States, New Zealand and Singapore have warned their citizens about the promotion of this fraudulent cryptocurrency, and arrested several peers associated with it, charging them under the Multi-Level Marketing and Pyramid Selling (Prohibition) Act.
The chief executive officer of SISDAC, Willie Papu, publicly confessed that OneCoin has managed to launder $NZ3.5 million ($US 2.3 million) that the church invested into OneCoin. An IT engineer who is associated with the Samoa Worship Centre’s Apia-based office told Radio New Zealand (RNZ) that OneCoin representatives had approached the church to present their product for investment purposes. He also divulged that several individuals who are associated with the church, including ministers, made the investments in OneCoin which is also labeled as a “hybrid Ponzi-pyramid scheme” by the Central Bank of Samoa (C.B.S.).
“A lot of people in Samoa invested in it, not just the church members. Everybody in the public,” said Fono Toluono, adding that he was happy with his investment of around $US1,100 in the scheme.
The official statement released by the Bank said that a number of individuals were “currently under scrutiny and potential investigation.”
Global Failure to Act Against the OneCoin Crypto Ponzi Scheme
Money laundering in Samoa can result in a penalty of 15 years imprisonment or a maximum fine of around $US374,000 or a combination of both. Moreover, crypto expert and researcher at the University of Auckland, Alex Sims, said the authorities and regulators across the globe failed to act against the OneCoin Ponzi scheme which resulted in the current situation.
“The question’s got to be asked – why was nothing done when people have known this was clearly a Ponzi scheme for a couple of years?”
New Zealand’s Financial Markets Authority issued a warning in December last year which recommended: “extreme caution before investing with OneLife or OneCoin as we are concerned, they bear the characteristics of a scam.” NZ Financial Intelligence Unit (NZFIU) has also warned the investors regarding any OneCoin investment.