A human rights lawyer representing victims of an alleged cryptocurrency pyramid scheme in Thailand is taking their case to the country’s Department of Special Investigation (DSI).

The Bangkok Post reported on Jan. 16 that roughly 20 victims, whose losses are alleged to total 75 million baht (~$2.5 million), are seeking to go beyond the investigations of local police in Thailand’s Krabi province given the gravity of the case. 

The DSI, a department of the Thai Ministry of Justice, works independently of the Thai Royal Police force and is tasked with the investigation of “special cases,” such as those involving organized criminal networks or cases tied to national security threats.

Eight percent weekly returns — until the check bounces

According to the report, the alleged pyramid scheme, dubbed "Khung Nong Cryptocurrency Trading," operated in Krabi province in 2018. Promising returns of as high as 8% weekly, locals in the towns of Krabi, Trang, Yala, Pattani, and Narathiwat are reported to have sold off assets including private land, cars and motorcycles to raise the money for their investments.

Between October 2018 and February 2018, the scheme drew in more victims, until its operator abruptly stopped paying out dividends. One investor, Noopad Wachedi, said she had sold her land to raise the money needed to invest, and that the check given to her by Khung Nong Cryptocurrency Trading’s operators subsequently bounced.

Ms. Noopad claimed her recruiter had alleged her investment was being overseen by state officers; another victim, her relative, also alluded to a series of alleged tricks used to deceive investors.

Local heists

In fall 2019, Cointelegraph reported that Bangkok police had arrested a 48-year old man who had styled himself the “cryptocurrency wizard” over his alleged role in a 500 million baht ($16.3 million) crypto exchange fraud. 

The previous year, another illustrious local figure — the Thai soap-opera star Jiratpisit Jaravijit — was arrested for his alleged role in 797 million baht ($24.6 million) Bitcoin (BTC) investment heist, which he purportedly operated together with his siblings.