Philippine police have reportedly raided the offices of an alleged cryptocurrency scam that was targeting investors in China.
According to a Sept. 15 report by local news outlet Inquirer.net, agents from the Bureau of Immigration, the Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission and the National Police’s Integrity Monitoring and Enforcement Group raided the offices of Grapefruit Services Inc. in Pasig City on Sept. 11.
Authorities reportedly received a tip from the Chinese Embassy, which claimed that the firm had already defrauded thousands of investors in mainland China.
Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente said that the Chinese government cancelled the passports of all the employees, which made them illegal workers in the Philippines. Officials arrested 277 employees of the firm, all of whom are Chinese nationals.
Special economic zone
An unnamed source told Inquirer.net that Grapefruit is an authorized service provider of Golden Millennial Quickpay Inc. Ltd., which operates under a special license from the Cagayan Economic Zone Authority (CEZA).
CEZA — a government-owned corporation — oversees the Cagayan Special Economic Zone and Freeport, which is a special economic area in the north of the country. Also known as the Cagayan Freeport, the zone aims to attract foreign and local investment. The Philippine government began allowing cryptocurrency firms to operate there in April 2018.
Inquirer.net states that the firm was operating outside of the designated zone, and thus had run afoul of Philippine financial regulations.
Special regulations for cryptocurrencies
At the beginning of this year, the Philippine Securities and Exchange Commission (PSEC) postponed the issuance of final regulations for initial coin offerings (ICO), having introduced a draft version in August 2018.
In the draft, the PSEC stated that the tokens emitted during an ICO should be classified as securities, and “therefore, these should be registered with the Commission and necessary disclosures need to be made for the protection of the investing public.”
In February 2019, CEZA introduced a set of rules governing digital asset token offerings. The rules were designed to regulate the cryptocurrency industry and protect investors, affecting such issues as the acquisition of utility and security tokens.