The world of cryptocurrencies is no stranger to scams and exchange hacks, but a recent investigation by Bloomberg’s journalist Zeke Faux has revealed a shocking twist: crypto is now being used as a gateway to more extensive criminal activities, including human trafficking.
Faux’s journey into this dark realm began innocently enough with a text message from a woman named Vicky Ho, who claimed to be a divorced businesswoman managing a chain of nail salons in New York. What started as a casual conversation eventually took a sinister turn as Vicky steered it toward cryptocurrency investments.
Unmasking the ‘Pig Butchering’ Scheme
Suspecting a potential scam, Faux decided to play along to gather more information. Vicky introduced him to a crypto exchange app called ZBXS and instructed him to deposit Tether (USDT) to initiate trading. Faux’s initial objective was to investigate the legitimacy of Tether’s stablecoin, but as he delved deeper, he uncovered a horrifying truth.
The scheme, known as “pig butchering,” wasn’t just a financial fraud; it was a front for a more sinister operation. Orchestrated by Chinese gangsters operating from Cambodia and Myanmar, the criminals enticed young individuals from Southeast Asia with promises of well-paying jobs. Once lured in, these victims were held captive and forced into a range of criminal activities, including running scams similar to the one involving Vicky.
Dark Secrets of ‘Chinatown’
Faux’s investigation revealed that these operations were conducted in sprawling compounds, with one such compound known as “Chinatown” located in Sihanoukville, Cambodia. Inside, thousands of captive workers were coerced into sending spam messages under the constant threat of torture or death. Shockingly, some workers reported being forcibly injected with methamphetamine to increase their productivity.
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Zeke Faux’s harrowing discovery is not an isolated incident. Recent reports suggest that over 200,000 people in Cambodia and Myanmar are victims of large criminal enterprises, forced into running various scams, from crypto fraud to online gambling. These criminal networks extend their operations into other Southeast Asian nations, including Laos, Thailand, and the Philippines.