Churches dispute “OneCoin” claims

By Matai'a Lanuola Tusani T - Ah Tong 27 April 2019, 12:00AM

Two local churches have been implicated in an intelligence report from the New Zealand Police for their involvement in a “Hybrid Ponzi-Pyramid Scheme” popularly known as “One Coin.”

The churches that have been identified are the Worship Center Church and Samoan Independent Seventh Day Adventist Church (S.I.S.D.A.C.).

In a statement issued by the Central Bank of Samoa following the release of the New Zealand Police report, it refers to OneCoin as a “scam” because it “contains ingredients of both types of scams – Ponzi Scheme and Pyramid Scheme.”

But both churches have strongly disputed the claims made in the report.

The World Executive Secretary of S.I.S.D.A.C., Pastor Iafeta Masipau, said their local branch is not involved.

“The (S.I.S.D.A.C.) church in New Zealand is involved but not us in Samoa,” Pastor Masipau told the Samoa Observer.

The Executive Secretary said he is aware of the report from the Central Bank but is uncertain why their local church has been accused.

“That is what I am looking at why the Samoa Church is mentioned because none of us here in Samoa is involved,” he said.

“There might be some individuals from the church that have joined (OneCoin) but not us in Samoa.”

Told that the report made direct reference to the church account in Samoa, Pr. Masipau maintained their position on the report.

“That is what I see there are claims (against the church) but no confirmation,” he said. “Our bank accounts are mentioned and we will have to discuss it with our lawyer why we are mentioned…the church overseas is involved but not us in Samoa.”

When the Samoa Observer attempted to contact the Leader of the Worship Centre Church, Apostle Viliamu Mafo'e, questions were referred to the Church’s IT Engineer, Fono Toluono. The Samoa Observer was told he was the one who deals directly with cryptocurrency queries.

In an interview, with Mr. Toluono said the people invested in the scheme out of their own freewill. He denied reports that OneCoin is a scam.

“I am also a BitCoin investor and sometimes it’s good and sometimes it’s not,” he said. “It’s a risky business but it’s freewill of each individual that invests in it. It is not a scam from my point of view.  I have joined the One Life education and education is not a scam.”

Mr. Toluono said when people join OneCoin, they are given contracts. The investors are then called "independent marketing associates".

“Everyone that joins can be a sales person and I can ask you to join and sell you the product and the product is education.”

Asked if using education to attract people to join, and take their money without paying returns, is not a scam, Mr. Toluono said: “It is not a scam because I got returns.”

Those returns Mr. Toluono referred to, came in the form of a "diploma" he received from an online course and according to him, it was worth it.  

“To me it’s like paying my fee for university and what I’m paying for is worth and getting educated. I bought a package called trader which and in return I got a diploma and got coins from that package.”

He added that many people have signed up for the OneCoin scheme, which includes Members of Parliament and Government officials.

It is estimated that 1000 Samoans have already joined and signed up for the OneCoin scheme.

One of the OneCoin International Global Leaders Group (G.L.G.) from the Worship Center Church, who did not want his name to be disclosed publicly to protect his family, also spoke about the issue.

The Leader, who is one of five in Samoa, said the report from Central Bank of Samoa is understandable as they are trying to protect Samoa from money laundering and dirty money.

However, he expressed concerns over the report revealing the names of the two churches without proof.

“There is a lot of cryptocurrency coins in the market at the moment and its very unprofessional of them to mention Worship center and S.I.S.D.A.C,” he said.

“Reason being is if you look at the people involved, they come from all the different churches here, and should have withheld names until they are sure.

“The churches have been mentioned, because of the capacity of people involved in it might be from the churches, but it is not the church it’s the individuals. A church is a community and if people did join, it is out of their own freewill.”

The leader then questioned why another church was not highlighted in the report, yet the leader of that church went publicly and shared his views on OneCoin.

The church he referred to is Peace Chapel Christian Fellowship Pastor, Samoa Unoi.

“Our church Apostle did not speak about it nor did S.I.S.D.A.C. yet they made specific reference to us,” he said.  “The involvement of an individual does not represent the church as the community.”

The G.L.G. leader also dismissed claims from the report that church accounts were used to wire money for the scheme overseas.

“That is not true that church accounts were used,” he said.  “Nothing like that happened and that is why I keep saying they should have kept their report general than making specific mention.

“The church is not stupid to use its assets for individual’s things.”

Pressed that the report stressed the scheme is a scam, the leader challenged the Central Bank of Samoa to explain what they meant by scam.

“Speaking as a Leader, I am one of the person that was rewarded (under the scheme),” he said. “They (C.B.S.) look at the outgoing of the money but its not a scam so we are waiting for the exchange date the Initial Coin Offering (I.C.O.) to process the coins and go public.”

The Samoan church leader was also asked about reports, on another OneCoin leader Konstatin Ignatov who was arrested in Los Angeles U.S. on a wire fraud conspiracy charge, stemming from his role as leader of the scheme.

In response, he said the leaders around the world including himself were supposed to meet in Dubai with Mr. Ignatov but he was arrested.

He explained the meeting was to disclose the exchange date to all leaders, and hence why many investors have not received their money due to the exchange dates delay.

“We are just hoping and praying that he won’t get convicted,” he added.

Asked if that does not show that it is a scam with many investors not getting any returns, the leader denied this.

“It is just him not the company,” he maintained. “He is the one that gives the official date of exchange date and the top man. We will just wait and see and that is the reason why the exchange rate – which was scheduled in October last year – kept being delayed because of the OneCoin office that was ceased and then it was pushed back.

“So we are waiting on the 29 (April) when the matter is heard so we can hear the outcome, and have to update our members and have to wait for another period to do exchange date.”

By Matai'a Lanuola Tusani T - Ah Tong 27 April 2019, 12:00AM
Samoa Observer

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