Wallets Linked to Global Scams on Cambodia's Huione Guarantee Collect $11 Billion: Report

The online platform is said to be linked to the nation's ruling family and allegedly hosts posts offering services including deepfake scams, money laundering and so-called pig butchering.

AccessTimeIconJul 10, 2024 at 11:39 a.m. UTC
Updated Jul 10, 2024 at 2:23 p.m. UTC
  • Huione Guarantee, a Cambodian online platform said to be linked to the nation's ruling family, hosts merchants who allegedly supply scam operators and have collected as much as $11 billion in crypto, according to a research report.
  • Services offered by merchants' customers include production of deepfakes, money laundering and website development for "pig butchering" scams, according to Wired.

Huione Guarantee, a Cambodian online financial platform linked to the nation's ruling family, is a marketplace that hosts merchants whose customers include scam artists, particularly those helping develop pig-butchering scams, that have raked in $11 billion, Wired alleged, citing its own research and information from crypto-tracing firm Elliptic.

Wired said the platform, which provides deposit and escrow capabilities for peer-to-peer transactions conducted over the Telegram messaging system, hosts listings that can be used for activities including deepfake scams, money laundering and so-called pig butchering, in which a victim is wooed before being financially drained by their apparent admirer.

Users transact primarily using USDT, the world's largest stablecoin. Because USDT can be traced over the blockchain, Elliptic said it was able to follow the fund flows.

“I’m not sure whether Huione Guarantee was originally established with this in mind, but it’s certainly become primarily a marketplace for online scammers,” Tom Robinson, Elliptic’s cofounder and chief scientist, told Wired.

According to Elliptic, Huione Guarantee is "part of Huione Group, a Cambodian conglomerate with links to Cambodia’s ruling Hun family," which includes Cambodia’s prime minister, Hun Manet.

Officials of Huione Guarantee could not be reached by CoinDesk: Telegram addresses on the website were closed, and an email sent after business hours in Cambodia did not elicit a response. The office of the Council of Ministers of Cambodia did not respond to an email seeking a comment sent after office hours.

The website includes the disclaimer: "Huiwang Guarantee does not participate in nor understand the specific business of customers. As the guarantor, we are only responsible for one party receiving the goods and the other party receiving the money," according to a Google translation.

In May, companies including Coinbase, Kraken, Meta, Ripple, Tinder and Hinge formed the "Tech Against Scams" coalition to protect users.

USDT's popularity as a medium for money laundering was mentioned in January by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). USDT issuer Tether said at the time that the stablecoin had been singled out.

When blockchain analysts choose to publicize their findings without engaging directly with counterparties this “encourages a bystander effect, where individuals and in this case companies, observe wrongdoing but choose to record it for social media engagement and notoriety – rather than prioritize intervention,” a Tether spokesperson said today.

CORRECTION (July 10, 13:20 UTC): Clarifies throughout that the activities are offered by third-party merchants through the platform, not by the platform itself.

Edited by Sheldon Reback.

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Amitoj Singh

Amitoj Singh is a CoinDesk reporter.