SHARJAH – Police in the United Arab Emirates have detained a suspect in the country’s first ever cryptocurrency scam, according to media reports.
The Criminal Investigation Department (CID) of Sharjah police received a complaint from an Indian citizen claiming to have purchased Bitcoins from a Pakistani national also living in the emirate.
The suspect is alleged to have scammed two million Dirham ($680,625) while attempting to sell 76.63837 BTC, the Gulf News reports.
Although bitcoin transactions are prohibited in the country, once the latter receive the payment via a bank transfer, he failed to provide the cryptocurrency in exchange. The instance is reported to be potentially the first fraud case involving the cryptocurrency in the emirates.
The suspect and his compatriot who is based outside the country, convinced the victim to part with Dh2,000,500 for the purchase of Bitcoin currency. The victim told the police that he had already bought Bitcoin online several times. As they had proved lucrative, he had surfed websites for similar deals and came across an online trader based in an Asian country.
The online trader asked the victim to hand over the money to a Pakistani man identified as S.J.M., who lived in Sharjah, who would in turn transfer the Bitcoin money to the victim’s account.
Reports state that the two men met at Sharjah Mall, after having traded bitcoin online for a while. The buyer got the seller’s contacts and arranged a rendezvous at a café in the mall.
The victim claims that the two were having coffee when he “handed him the bag containing the money” and pointed out that the offender then appeared to be carrying out the online transfer. The Indian national also told police during questioning that the seller “then excused himself to go outside the mall” citing weak internet connection. The man never returned, thus sealing his fate.
When the suspect didn’t return, the victim called him on his mobile phone several times only to find it switched off.
He then immediately reported the issue to the police operation room who rushed to the scene.
Police immediately lanced an investigation following the report and were successful in identifying and locating the suspect.
The police identified the suspect, raided his residence and arrested him. They found most of the stolen money in his possession in addition to receipts of partial money transactions from the amount to his partner based outside the country.
The suspect confessed to his crime and his case has been referred to the public prosecution.
Lieutenant Colonel Mohammad Hassan Al Shamisi, Head of Criminal and Investigation section at Sharjah Police, warned people from engaging in unsafe trading operations in virtual currency based on insufficient knowledge. He also warned people against dealing with anonymous people on the internet.