Egyptian authorities have arrested 29 people, including 13 foreign citizens, accused of running an online cryptocurrency scam that defrauded thousands of investors, state media reported.
The network pocketed about $620,000 at the expense of victims in the country now battered by an economic crisis and rapid inflation, a report said on Sunday.
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The online platform “HoggPool”, which appeared in August according to local media, promised clients “financial gains after having lured them by fraudulent means”, said a statement released by the prosecution service late on Saturday.
The scheme promised large profits from cryptocurrency mining and trading services, for fees charged at an attractive foreign exchange rate.
It is illegal to dabble in cryptocurrency in Egypt – the act may be punishable by prison and a fine of up to $325,000.
HoggPool abruptly ceased operations in February and vanished with the money, the state-run daily Al-Ahram reported.
Authorities said the network was planning to launch a new platform called “Riot” when they were arrested.
The interior ministry said 16 Egyptians and “13 foreign nationals of the same country”, who were not identified, had been arrested. Officials also seized 95 mobile phones, 3,367 SIM cards and 41 foreign bank cards, it said.
Egypt is suffering one of its worst-ever economic crises.
Since March 2022, Egypt’s pound has depreciated by nearly half its value against the US dollar. An acute dollar shortage has suppressed imports and caused a backlog of goods at ports, with a knock-on effect on local industry.
Inflation surged to 25.8 percent in January, the highest level in five years, according to official data. Prices for many staple foods have risen much faster.
Official data classified about 30 percent of the population as poor before COVID-19 struck, and analysts say numbers have risen since then. Nearly 60 percent of Egypt’s 104 million citizens are estimated to be below, or close to the poverty line.