Two alleged crypto traders in Singapore apparently came up with a fool-proof plan: rather than convert a customer’s 365,000 Singapore dollars to bitcoin, they would simply rob the victim when he came in to do the trade.
The cash, worth about $267,556 U.S., changed hands in 2018 when the alleged 20-year-old Malaysian victim, Pang Joon Hau, came to Singapore to buy cryptocurrencies.
Why he did this in person is not clear, but the suspects— Jaromel Gee Ming Li, Mohd Abdul Rahman Mohamad, and Syed Mokhtar Syed Yusope—met him at a hotel and then, according to the Straits Times, allegedly “assaulted the Malaysian and his broker and made away with the cash.”
“Commander of Central Police Division, Assistant Commissioner Arthur Law, told reporters on Thursday that it is not common for people to perform bitcoin transactions in person, and with such large amounts of cash,” wrote the Strait’s Times.
The theft happened in April 2018 and Mokhtar pled guilty in court on September 9, 2020. Singapore officials haven’t yet charged Mokhtar’s alleged accomplices.
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Pang reportedly arrived at Hotel 81 in Singapore with a backpack full of cash. At about 11 pm on April 8, 2018, he met with the so-called brokers.
“Pang showed the money to Mokhtar, and Mokhtar proceeded to punch Pang once on the left cheek. Lee attempted to intervene, but Mokhtar punched him,” said the Deputy Public Prosecutor.
Abdul Rahman then stole the backpack and left.
The DPPs said that Mokhtar got a $15,000 cut in the scheme.
Given the decentralized nature of cryptocurrencies and the $24 million in cryptocurrencies stolen via the internet in 2020, it’s unclear why the alleged attackers chose to do it in person. After all, it’s far easier and cheaper to simply ask for a bank transfer and then give the trader the runaround when they ask for the crypto, resulting in a delightfully anonymous bit of criminal enterprise.
Mokhtar is currently out on $30,000 bail.