Samoan church’s involvement in fraudulent OneCoin scam

As published on Radio New Zealand/RNZ, New Zealand’s Department of Internal Affairs (DIA) is investigating the Auckland branch of the Samoan Independent Seventh Day Adventist Church (SISDAC) over its link to a cryptocurrency labeled as a fraudulent pyramid scheme. The separate investigation was carried out by Samoa’s Central Bank into the church. However, the investigation carried out by DIA was conducted under the Charities Act 2005, was not focused on the church’s links to the cryptocurrency OneCoin.

OneCoin has been in news ever since it launched in 2014. The number of countries has already banned OneCoin and labeled it as fraudulent cryptocurrency. Previously United States, New Zealand, Singapore has warned the people regarding 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.

Chief executive officer of Samoan Independent Seventh Day Adventist Church (SISDAC), Willie Papu, publicly confessed that OneCoin had 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 purpose. He also told that several individuals associated with Church that includes 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 $US1100 in the scheme.

When contacted to an Auckland-based branch of the other church named by Samoa’s Central Bank went, it wasn’t answered and went unnoticed. Maiava Atalina Emma Ainuu-Enari was also asked to comment on the matter but she couldn’t answer for some reason. However, the official statement released by the bank said on Thursday that the number of individuals was “currently under scrutiny and potential investigation.”

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/NZFMA 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 the OneCoin investment.

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