Malaysian here to buy bitcoins ends up being robbed of $365,000

A Malaysian man who arranged to meet a prospective bitcoin seller to buy the digital currency was robbed of $365,000 in cash instead.

Mr Pang Joon Hau, believed to be in his 20s, had come to Singapore to buy bitcoins and contacted a Singaporean broker.

On Sunday, Mr Pang and his broker met a man who claimed to have bitcoins to sell, as well as another man who passed himself off as a broker, at Hotel 81 in Middle Road, where Mr Pang was staying.

After ascertaining that Mr Pang had the sum that both parties agreed upon, the two men assaulted the Malaysian and his broker and made off with the cash, the police said at a press conference yesterday.

Two 36-year-old men were later arrested and charged with robbery with hurt. One of them, Mohd Abdul Rahman Mohamad, was on the run when he allegedly robbed Mr Pang.

Central Police Division commander Arthur Law told reporters yesterday that it is not common for people to perform bitcoin transactions in person, and with such a large amount of cash.

A police spokesman added that the police are investigating the origins of Mr Pang's money.

Abdul Rahman, who was charged yesterday, had allegedly committed other offences, including cheating in 2016, and had a warrant of arrest issued against him when he failed to turn up in court on April 5.

He allegedly robbed Mr Pang three days later with Uber driver Syed Mokhtar Syed Yusope at around 11.40pm.

Mokhtar was arrested at Woodlands Checkpoint on Monday and charged with one count of robbery with hurt two days later. Abdul Rahman, who was caught in a Sentosa hotel on Tuesday, was handed a similar charge yesterday.

Abdul Rahman's former wife, Yogeshwry Raman, 33, was also taken to court yesterday and charged with dishonestly receiving stolen property valued at $50,300, including a Rolex watch worth $45,800.

Abdul Rahman was facing 11 other charges before he allegedly robbed Mr Pang.

He is said to have assaulted a man known as Yugendiran Jagapalan in a flat at Block 8 Lorong Lew Lian, near Upper Serangoon Road, on April 19, 2016.

On July 10 that year, he allegedly misappropriated debit cards belonging to another man.

He is also accused of committing five counts of cheating with alleged accomplice Selvandran Nagendran, 33, later that day.

They allegedly used the cards to buy items worth $3,674, including a mobile phone and two rings.

Abdul Rahman is also accused of harassing a man and a woman by hurling vulgarities at them on Aug 15, 2016. He allegedly harassed the woman again on Dec 7 that year before assaulting the same man later.

Mokhtar's case has been adjourned to next Wednesday, while Abdul Rahman and Yogeshwry will be back in court next Thursday.

The trio are now remanded at Central Police Division.

The police have advised the public to exercise discretion when dealing with strangers, and to avoid carrying large amounts of cash.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 13, 2018, with the headline 'Malaysian here to buy bitcoins ends up being robbed of $365,000'. Print Edition | Subscribe