An alleged scam involving investments in bitcoin in Austria has reportedly affected over ten thousand investors in the country and around Europe.
Details are emerging about an Austrian investment scheme, dubbed “Optioment”, where its operators have reportedly stolen some 12,000 bitcoins (approx. $116 million in current prices) from over 10,000 victims invested in the scheme. The scheme ran a website, now offline, claiming to be a ‘premier global Bitcoin investment product’ stemming from a ‘private Costa Rica-based bitcoin fund’. The scheme also claimed to have its ‘investment’ platform backed by assets over 35,000 BTC.
A Die Presse report reveals investors were lured by the promise of soaring returns of 1.5%-4% per week on their deposited bitcoins. Investors were also rewarded for bringing new users into the fold.
“OPTIOMENT pays you Bitcoins when you share it with your friends and business colleagues,” an excerpt from the now-defunct website, available on the Internet Archive. ‘Our unlevel compensation plan’s first level pays you 7%, second level 4%, third level 3% and way more. And it pays you everytime a member in your downline makes a deposit, not only for the first time but for every time. Active and Passive!’
The largest investor event organized by Optioment occurred in the weeks before its collapse, where 700 participants turned up at a hotel in Vienna. The investment scheme also saw its network expand to investors in Poland, Romania and former Yugoslavia.
While payouts were made for several months, the multi-level marketing scheme ultimately collapsed in November 2017. Toward the end of January, Austria’s Financial Markets Authority began collaborating with the prosecutors’ office in Vienna to carry out an investigation on the suspicion of fraud and/or pyramid play, the Die Presse report added.
Two of the three operators behind Optioment, a Danish national and a Latvian national, have been reportedly identified. As such, no arrests have been made, an FMA spokeswoman told Bloomberg. Still, the prosecutors’ office is going through “hundreds of complaints” from Austrian investors, leading to authorities pushing Interpol to help track down the operators of the alleged scam.