From trading to trouble: Bhutanese student’s bank account linked to criminal activites

A Bhutanese man studying in Thailand, who trades cryptocurrency on the trading platform Binance says about Nu 500,000 of criminal proceeds were deposited into his account. According to the man, while he thought the money was proceeds from selling cryptocurrency, he was not aware that the person he was dealing with was scamming and hacking into the bank accounts of Bhutanese individuals to send him the money.     

The man, who did not want to be named, trades stable cryptocurrency USDt also known as Tether. Tether’s price does not fluctuate, unlike other cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin or Ethereum.

He also trades cryptocurrencies using social media platforms like Facebook, WhatsApp, and Telegram.

Speaking to BBS, he said that in early February this year, he met a man named Tenzin Nima on Facebook whom he thought was a genuine Tether buyer.

“During our conversation, we agreed on a trading rate for the crypto. Initially, he sent me Nu 28,000. As the seller, my method of verifying the transaction was to check if I had received the payment. He made the payment using the MBoB app.”

Upon receiving the payment, he released crypto worth USD 300.

Following the first transaction, he made four other transactions with the same, supposedly Bhutanese man. Each time, receiving the money first and then releasing Tether cryptocurrency.

“The amounts were Nu 28,000, 14,000, 72,000, 90,000 and 285,000. I received payments from the same person. However, he made his payments from MBoB and TPay apps.”

However, when the buyer did not receive video calls, he became sceptical. He then contacted Tenzin Nima’s Facebook friend only to find out that Tenzin Nima lost access to his Facebook account for about a month. Then, he contacted some of Tenzin Nima’s friends on Facebook, who in turn told him that the account had been hacked for about a month.

During this time, he also received calls from the Trashigang and Thimphu police stating that several Bhutanese people had lost money from their accounts and that all the money was ultimately deposited into his account.

Meanwhile, to get more details from the suspected buyer, he initiated another crypto sale. The buyer, like always, transferred Nu 116,000 to his account. But this time, he did not release crypto. Instead asking the buyer for more information. That is when he started getting life threats from different Facebook accounts.

“On Monday I went to meet Thimphu police OC. They said the amount through crime proceedings has got into my account and said I have to refund. But my stand is that when it comes to the four transactions, I have traded crypto in good faith with Tenzin Nima who made his payments through MBOB and TPay. So, I would not be able to refund it. However, I did the last transaction amounting to Nu 116,000 after knowing that he was a hacker and when I was in touch with the police. Therefore, I am ready to refund that to the rightful owner.”

However, he found out that apart from the Nu 116,000, another Nu 72,800 was deducted from his account. For the two amounts, Thimphu Police received cases from individuals who claimed to have lost their money while seeking foreign currencies in exchange for ngultrum.

The Thimphu Police told BBS that they have evidence of the lost money entering his account, so, the amount will be refunded to victims from his account. Police are currently investigating the case.

Meanwhile, according to the Bank of Bhutan, people might have lost their money as accounts might be used as a channel for illicit funds without the account holder’s direct involvement or lack of vigilance in monitoring their account activity or unintentionally facilitating transactions.

The Bhutan Computer Incident Response Team urges the public to verify investments or trades before proceeding. They are reminding individuals not to engage in trading outside of legitimate investment or trading platforms, particularly on social media, as buyers and sellers cannot be verified.

Kinzang Lhadon

Edited by Sherub Dorji

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