Vietnamese Crypto Mining CEO Flees With $35 Million of Funds

Avi Rosten

A Vietnamese crypto-CEO has fled with over $35 million worth of investor funds in what appears to be yet another scam to hit Asia.

According to reports in the local Vnexpress, Le Minh Tam, CEO of cryptocurrency mining company Sky Mining – based in the capital city of Ho Chi Minh – disappeared last Monday along with the company's funds.

Worried investors who turned up at the company’s head office in Phu Nhuan District found the building shut, the nameplate removed and all 600 mining rigs at the company’s factory nearby had been taken away.

Publishing a note last Wednesday on Facebook, the CEO apologised for “everything,” claiming that due to the unpredictability of the market:

My last resort is to stay hidden from public to protect my life.

Telling investors that they should speak to the company to reclaim the lost funds – the CEO has allegedly simply absconded with the money himself, leaving only the empty office.

Attracting investors to its mining operation with promised profits of up to 300%, the company reportedly claimed to be the largest cryptocurrency mining company in Vietnam.

With board members themselves claiming “we are victims too” and setting up a 16-person temporary board to help investors, deputy chairman Le Minh Hien explained:

[The board] has reported this to the police and showed evidence that we are not guilty.

Vietnamese Scams

This latest scam, however, seems to have been relatively small fry for Vietnam - with recent reports that a prominent IT firm - Modern Tech - allegedly duped 32,000 unsuspecting investors out of $647 million (15 trillion VND) via a cryptocurrency ponzi scheme in April.

With Vietnam’s Central Bank recently agreeing to suspend cryptocurrency miner imports in an attempt to “avoid harming local consumers,” this latest alleged fraud will likely deepen the authorities’ suspicion of the crypto-mining industry.

Bitrue Hacked: $4.5 Million in XRP and ADA Stolen, User Funds Will Be Replaced

At around 17:00 UTC on June 26 or 01:00 on June 27 in Singapore, where digital asset exchange Bitrue is based, a security breach occurred, which resulted in a loss of $4.5 million in crypto from the exchange's hot wallets.

Bitrue, which was founded in 2018, has quickly become a favorite with members of the XRP community because of the high degree of enthusiasm, support, and transparency shown by its management towards XRP. One interesting fact about Bitrue is that it supported XRP as a base currency on the day that its trading platform was launched (19 July 2018). 

At press time (07:57 UTC on June 27), visitors to the Bitrue website are greeted with this message:

Bitrue Hack Announcement.png

Around 02:16 UTC on June 27, Bitrue issued an official statement (via a series of tweets) that explained what exactly had happened, how this impacted its users, and what it was going to do next:

  • At approximately 17:00 UTC on June 26, a hacker or group of hackers "exploited a vulnerability" in the exchange's "Risk Control team's 2nd review process" to "access the personal funds of about 90 Bitrue users."
  • The hackers "used what they learned from this breach" to steal around $4.5 million in crypto—more specifically 9.3 million XRP and 2.5 million Cardano (ADA)—from the exchange's hot wallets and moved these coins to various other exchanges.
  • Shortly after the security breach, this attack was detected and trading, withdrawals, and deposits were all suspended on Bitrue, and the three exchanges where the stolen funds were moved to—Huobi Global, Bittrex, and ChangeNOW—were alerted and asked to freeze "the affected funds and accounts." Bitrue has also "contacted the relevant authorities in Singapore to assist us in tracking down the culprit and retrieving the stolen funds."
  • Because initially it was not quite clear what exactly had happened, the message shown above (about "system maintenance") was posted on the Bitrue website... Bitrue wishes to apologize for "this miscommunication" with its users.
  • Bitrue wants to reassure its users that all "heir personal funds are insured, and anybody affected by this breach will have their funds replaced by us as soon as possible."
  • Bitrue is currently "conducting an emergency inspection of the exchange and hope to be live again as soon as possible with log in & trading functionality." As for withdrawals, they will be "offline for a slightly longer period" while the investigation continues.
  • The flow of stolen XRP can be tracked via the XRP Ledger tool at Bithomp: https://bithomp.com/explorer/rwSvajJ4ZNhjgzcfaJWkEuLh4VURTFHuka

In communication with CryptoGlobe, Bitrue's support team confirmed that:

  • all user funds are "insured up to a maximum value of 1 million USD per user"; and
  • "trading should be back up within a few hours, and at that time users who were affected will already have their lost funds back in their accounts"

A few hours ago, Bitrue CEO Curis Wang posted this message on Twitter:

UPDATE (08:15 on June 27): Bitrue has just released a statement to media outlets to provide further details about this incident:

  • Of the $4.5 million in stolen crypto, 50% was "moved to private wallets," and the other 50% was moved to five crypto exchanges: Huobi, Bittrex, ChangeNOW, Exmo.me, and Coinswitch.co. The first three have frozen the stolen funds that were moved there (worth around $1.35 million). 
  • "This frozen amount should be recoverable by Bitrue in the future after working with the authorities and exchanges."
  • "After recovering the frozen assets, the net loss will be $3.15 million USD." This total "includes $1.89 million USD lost from individual user accounts, and $1.26 million USD lost from Bitrue’s own hot wallet."
  • "The funds lost by user accounts were insured and will be replaced by Bitrue as soon as the exchange resumes service."
  • "Bitrue plans to re-enable log in and trading services by midnight (Singapore time) June 27, i.e. by 16:00 UTC on June 27.
  • "Withdrawals from the exchange will not be possible until the Bitrue team is confident that any security vulnerabilities have been addressed."
  • "Bitrue will continue the planned launch of the trading of their platform token, Bitrue Coin (BTR), on Sunday 30 June 2019."
  • "Bitrue will analyze their automated systems and manual processes to identify any potential vulnerabilities and patch them before they can be exploited."

Featured Image Credit: Photo via Pexels.com