When social media influencers Indra Kesuma and Doni Salmanan appeared on an Indonesian TV show to show off their wealth in January, studio audiences laughed and cheered upon hearing about their “bending”.
In Indonesia, the pair are known as “crazy rich” Indonesians, a title given to wealthy young people who flaunt their possessions on social media.
Mr Kesuma, who goes by the name Indra Kenz, admitted he once bought an electric car for more than 1.9 billion rupees ($180,000) at 3 a.m. because he couldn’t sleep, and got paid $30,000 for a t-shirt, which he considered “very cheap”. .
Mr Salmanan said he made $3 million a month and once gave an online gambler $100,000 just because he was bored.
Meanwhile, one of their alleged victims, Maru Nazara, was watching them from his home.
“I was very angry, but at the same time worried,” Mr Nazara said.
Victims report to police
Mr Nazara was one of thousands of Indonesians who started trading binary options on a self-proclaimed “investment platform” app called Binomo after watching Mr Kesuma’s YouTube videos.
He said he was convinced to give it a shot after seeing what appeared to be 25-year-old Mr Kesuma winning tens of millions of rupees in just a few minutes.
“I thought it had to be the real deal,” he said.
“[Mr Kesuma’s] results [were] confirmed and validated by his publications on social networks with luxury products,” he says.
Binary options are financial products that are an all-or-nothing, usually short-term, bet on the movement of a stock.
They are described by the Australian government’s Moneysmart site as “a high-risk, unpredictable investment that is really just a gamble”.
According to its website, the Binomo app is owned by a company based in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines in the Caribbean and available in over 130 countries.
Mr. Kesuma was a “mentor” for the app and Mr. Nazara signed up using his affiliate code.
Later, in his report to the police, Mr Nazara said he noticed repeated irregularities, such as the app crashing when he won or the value of his bid automatically clicking five times.
In six months, Mr. Nazara claims to have lost around $50,000 and to have fallen into debt with those close to him.
“I felt bad from the stress and fell into depression for three months because I lost all my capital,” he said.
Mr. Nazara, along with other users, decided to lodge a complaint with the police.
Police say ‘flexing’ was used to attract investors
In February, just a month after appearing on the TV show, Mr. Kesuma became the first binary options trading affiliate to be arrested by the Indonesian National Police.
He faces multiple charges related to fraudulent activities on Binomo, including online gambling, spreading false news, fraud and money laundering.
Police allege assets confiscated from Mr Kesuma amount to $5.7million and they targeted hundreds of billions more rupees in several of his bank accounts.
Doni Salmanan, the man who sat next to Mr. Kesuma on the show, was also arrested for promoting another binary options app, Quotex.
Director of Cybercrime and Criminal Investigations Brigadier General Asep Edi Suheri alleged at a police press conference that Mr Salmanan, 23, broke the law by fraudulently posting YouTube videos claiming that he had earned billions of rupees from Quotex and in “flexible” to convince people to use the app.
“In reality, DS [Doni Salmanan] does not trade on the website and is only an affiliated company to benefit members,” Brigadier General Suheri recently claimed at a press conference, where Mr. Salmanan’s confiscated assets were on display.
Mr. Salmanan was also present at the press conference.
Police claimed to have confiscated $50 million from his frozen bank accounts and nearly $5 million in luxury goods.
They said they continue to investigate other people who may have misrepresented where they got their wealth on social media to promote binary options platforms.
Head of the Cyber Crimes Division, Reinhard Hutagaol, claims that mentors received around 80% of the money lost by users who signed up with mentor affiliate codes.
He alleged at a press conference that there were at least 25,000 active members in a Telegram group for Quotex users affiliated with Mr Salmanan.
A Telegram group for Mr Kesuma’s Binomo users had more than 200,000 members.
In response to the alleged fraud, the daughter of one of Indonesia’s richest men, Grace Tahir, posted a video on YouTube that went viral.
Ms. Tahir’s father, Dato Sri Tahir, and his family are ranked the seventh richest people in Indonesia and occupy position 961 on a list of the world’s richest people, according to Forbes.
Ms Tahir told the ABC that the purpose of the parody skit was to raise awareness among the Indonesian public about the risks of social media posts about how to make a quick buck.
“Anyone can post anything on social media, so the public should be careful,” she said.
University of Indonesia media and communication scholar Whisnu Triwibowo said the digital literacy of the Indonesian people is still weak and more government interventions are needed.
“Even in Europe, where digital literacy is already high, they have internet laws,” Dr Triwibowo said.
Lawyer Finsensius Mendrofa, who acts on behalf of the alleged victims of Mr Kesuma and Mr Salmanan, said he still had hundreds of complaints to check and forward to the police.
Police say they are now considering charging 13 other affiliates in addition to Mr. Kesuma and Mr. Salmanan.