A New Zealand church accused of colluding with a cryptocurrency Ponzi scheme in targeting the congregation, has denied knowingly participating in illegal activity in a Facebook statement on May 2.
The Samoan Independent Seventh Day Adventist Church (SISDAC) is one of two places of worship accused of having links to OneCoin, which raised hundreds of millions of dollars worldwide by luring investors with the promise of huge returns.
According to RadioNZ, the scam specifically targeted New Zealand’s Samoan community — with OneCoin workers using SISDAC and the Samoa Worship Center “to reach a vast network of would-be investors.” One woman estimated that approximately 100 members of her congregation had invested in the crypto scam.
Authorities in Samoa recently summarized a report about the allegations produced by New Zealand’s Financial Intelligence Unit, and claimed SISDAC had knowingly participated in money laundering activity, but the church said it takes issue with this characterization, writing:
“SISDAC has never knowingly participated or colluded in any way shape or form with any individual or organization in this type of illegal activity… [We are] seeking legal counsel over these matters that threaten the integrity and good standing of the church, its leadership, its missional work and the well-being of its loyal membership.”
An employee of the Samoa Worship Center told RadioNZ that it also denied the allegations, and it is exploring legal action against the Samoan government over defamation.
As previously reported by Cointelegraph, Samoa’s central bank banned any activities involving OneCoin in 2018, but despite this, pitches in New Zealand churches continued. One churchgoer said a minister was among the victims.
One of the scheme’s founders, Konstantin Ignatov, is being investigated by U.S. law enforcement, and in March, Manhattan’s attorney general charged OneCoin’s lawyer with conspiracy to commit wire fraud.