‘Treasure Ship’ ICO Dupes Investors – South Korea Asks Interpol for Help
South Korean police have asked Interpol for help with an investigation into the fraudulent token sale of Shinil Gold Coins that were claimed to be backed by the “treasure” on the sunken Dmitrii Donskoi. Local media reported that the sale raised an estimated $53.5 million from about 124,000 investors.
Treasure Ship Without Treasure
South Korean company Shinil Group announced on July 18 that it had discovered the shipwreck of Russian battleship Dmitrii Donskoi that was scuttled in 1905. The company also claimed at the time that about 200 tons of gold were found on board.
The firm subsequently backtracked on its treasure claims after the country’s financial watchdog, the Financial Supervisory Service (FSS), started investigating it for stock and initial coin offering (ICO) fraud, as news.Bitcoin.com previously reported.
However, before withdrawing its claims, the ICO presale had already taken place through a Singaporean company with the same name, Shinil Group, the Korea Herald described. Shinil Gold Coin tokens are supposed to be backed by the treasure on the Dmitrii Donskoi. Nikkei reported that a full-page advertisement was run in a South Korean newspaper last month, detailing:
The newspaper ad said Shinil, one or the other, would soon show video of the Donskoi wreck and, in the first half of 2019, distribute dividends worth 10% of the value of the treasure that it estimated at 150 trillion won ($133 billion) to holders of the Shinil Gold Coin cryptocurrency.
Citing that the tokens were sold “to some 124,000 investors” during the presale, the Korea Herald elaborated, “Shinil was estimated to have raised funds worth almost 60 billion won [~$53.5 million] as of July 26 on the claim.”
The Singaporean Shinil Group claims that “the value of a coin was expected to rise to 10,000 won [~$9] compared to a presale price of 30-50 won [~$0.03-0.05], once it completed an initial coin offering on cryptocurrency exchanges,” the publication added.
Meanwhile, “experts have said imperial Russia would have no reason to load vast treasure on a ship that was going into battle and have also noted that there was a safer land route to Vladivostok, the treasure’s supposed final destination,” AFP reported.
Connection to Singaporean Company
As the FSS launched its investigation of the firm for financial fraud, Korean police also launched a criminal investigation.
Choi Yong-seok, president of the Korean Shinil Group, insisted that “Shinil Group in Singapore had nothing to do with Shinil Group in South Korea.” However, the Korea Herald pointed out that “the two companies’ founders are siblings, and the Singapore firm has been selling virtual coins, reportedly with a promise of handsome returns in case treasure is salvaged from the ship.”
Police say “the founder of the Singaporean Shinil Group, surnamed Ryu, was also wanted in connection with fraud allegations dating back to 2014” and they had already requested Interpol’s assistance with him, AFP noted. “Police has been hunting for Ryu since 2014, when he fled the country during a separate investigation…We are asking police in any relevant country to help locate and repatriate him at the earliest possible date.”
Officials of the Korean Shinil Group, including Choi, “have had travel bans imposed on them,” the news outlet detailed:
Police in Seoul requested an international arrest warrant for the founder of a Singapore-based firm Thursday after launching an investigation into the company and a South Korean startup over false claims of discovering a long-lost Russian ‘treasure ship’.
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