The action was taken based on a complaint lodged by one Dr Abhishek Pal, a resident of Rajnandgaon, who alleged that he had lost Rs 81 lakh after a Chinese woman lured him into investing in a cryptocurrency scheme by promising him three-fold returns, the official said.
The preliminary investigation revealed that the complainant had fallen prey to Chinese-origin 'Sha Zhu Pan', which translates to a pig butchering scam aka romance scam, under which fraudsters spend months cultivating a relationship with their targets before convincing them to invest in bogus investment schemes, said Santosh Singh, Rajnandgaon Superintendent of Police told PTI.
A police team led by city superintendent of police (CSP) Gaurav Rai was tasked with investigating the case, he added.
“Pal had gotten acquainted with a person named Ana Li from Hong Kong on a social networking site. On her recommendation, he had invested $35,000, approximately Rs 26 lakh, in a trading app. Later the money grew to $107,825. The victim could not withdraw the money even after depositing taxes as told by the fraudster,” the official said, quoting the complaint.
Further probe revealed that the social media handle in the name of Ana Li was a bogus account and it had used pictures of a Taiwan-based Instagram star. The account was created to cheat people, he said.
Subsequently, a cryptocurrency trail was mapped to analyse the flow of money, which involved assessment of hundreds of wallet addresses and multiple transactions through crypto trading apps, Singh said, adding that help was taken from various agencies for this.
The police subsequently zeroed in on three cryptocurrency wallet addresses linked to Binance, a Cayman Islands-based exchange, and connection of these accounts was established with the person who duped Pal, he said.
These wallet accounts, collectively having Rs 4 crore, are registered for the cryptocurrency trading in the names Liu Qiang, Wing San Tse and Guo Pan, all Chinese nationals, he said.
Acting on the request, Binance has frozen the three accounts and a procedure to recover the money of the victim has been initiated, which can take some time as it is a cross border matter, he said.
It is quite possible that several Indians have fallen prey to this scam, he said.
According to CipherBlade, a blockchain investigation agency, pig butchering scams are not run by lone individuals, but by big corporate-like set-ups where a large number of people are employed, the official said.