Depositors in an illegal banking operation shut down over the weekend in Cuenca and Santa Isabel may have a long wait to recoup their money. And there may not be much money to recoup, officials warn.
According to Azuay Province prosecutor Adrian Rojas, MTCoin, or Banco del Futura as it was also known, did not keep traditional bank records, making it difficult for investigators to locate individual depositor files.
“This could be difficult process since we are dealing with a ghost bank, not a real bank,” Rojas said. “MTCoin was a pyramid scheme that used a variety of methods to invest its money, much of it in illegal financial markets, and obviously did not use traditional banking methods.”
Police say that MTCoin depositors were issued coded coupons when they made deposits. The coupons did not include the name of the depositor or the amount of money deposited.
Rojas also said that the investigation will differ from that when a legitimate bank or financial cooperative fails. He cited the case of Coopera, the Cuenca credit union that failed in 2013. “In that case, the institution was registered with banking authorities and the investigation was conducted by that authority. Here, we are investigating an illegal operation so the process is different.”
The prosecutor’s office says it hopes to find some depositor information on the dozens of computers seized during weekend raids on MTCoin offices in Cuenca and Santa Isabel. “It will take time to sort this out,” Rojas said. “We don’t know how many depositors there were but from what we understand so far, we believe there are hundreds.”
Five MTCoin owners and managers were arrested on Friday and Saturday. In addition to computers and other office items taken in raids, police also confiscated $66,800 in cash.