Police officials in Dubai, United Arab Emirates’ business and financial hub, have reportedly charged three Pakistani citizens for allegedly stealing approximately $250,000, or 1 million Dirhams (AED), from a group of Chinese expats.
The three men managed to steal the large amount of funds from four businessmen after convincing them to visit an apartment in Al Rafaa, Dubai towards the end of March last year, according to local news outlets.
Chinese Businessmen Lured Into Apartment, Tied Up
As detailed by local sources, the Chinese businessmen were targeted through a Facebook post which offered a cryptocurrency deal. The Pakistani men showed the victims what appeared to be proof that they actually owned as much bitcoin (BTC) as they were trying to sell. Presumably, this convinced the businessmen to go to the apartment where they were supposed to purchase a quarter of a million dollars worth of bitcoin.
When the unsuspecting Chinese expats arrived at the apartment, they were reportedly confronted by accomplices of the Pakistani criminals. The accomplices were dressed like local police officials and they managed to tie up and physically restrain the Chinese men at the apartment.
Police Track Attackers' Car License Plate
However, one of the victims somehow managed to break free and he was also able to detain one of the accomplices. Eventually, police authorities arrived at the apartment, but the other attackers were able to take off with 1 million Dirhams and various other valuable items.
In order to track down the vehicle in which they had escaped, Dubai’s authorities conducted a search of the license plate of the criminals. The police officers were reportedly successful in their attempt to locate the attackers and the Pakistani men who had orchestrated the crime.
In total, authorities in the UAE have charged eight criminals for their alleged involvement in the crypto-related crime. However, only three offenders have been formally sentenced so far because there is currently not enough evidence to prosecute the others. As noted in the incident report, the criminals are all Pakistani residents and 38 years of age. Each offender has been sentenced to one year in prison.
No Real Awareness About Bitcoin In Pakistan
While this particular crime involving the Pakistani citizens took place in the UAE, there have been reports recently of police officials in Peshawar, Pakistan arresting a bitcoin trader. As reported by local news sources, two suspects had been taken into police custody and then released later. Both suspects were reportedly students and were let go - after being told that trading or using bitcoin is currently illegal in Pakistan.
According to Samaa TV, one of the students, named Hameed, revealed that there’s no real awareness about bitcoin in Pakistan. Hameed described the cryptocurrency’s use in Pakistan as follows:
Bitcoin is a digital currency and it is not accepted by any central bank. It does not have a legal entity. People are getting to know about it through social media and investing in it.
"Vanishing Line Between Street Crime And Cybercrime"
Hameed also advised people not to make investments in bitcoin as he believes it’s quite risky and an unstable asset. Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) has issued warnings to local residents regarding the use of cryptocurrencies - as the nation’s central bank, the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) has instructed all local financial institutions to not offer banking services to those dealing in cryptocurrencies.
Violent cryptocurrency-related crimes have increased over the past year throughout the world. In September 2018, Louis Meza pleaded guilty for organizing a kidnapping and stealing ether (ETH) worth more than $1.8 million (at that time). Cyrus R. Vance, a Manhattan, New York district attorney notified the public regarding Vance’s guilty plea and remarked:
As alleged in this case, the defendants worked together to carry out a kidnapping, armed robbery, and theft of more than $1.8 million in cryptocurrency, in a violent attack that demonstrates the vanishing line between street crime and cybercrime.