Sherab Lhamo

The government recently rescued six Bhutanese from abroad all of whom were recruited by a fake online marketing company and detained to scam potential investors in fake virtual assets.

They were identified as victims of trafficking in persons and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and External Trade in coordination with its counterparts rescued and repatriated the victims.

The officiating Director General of the Department of Law and Order Karma Dorji said that they were identified as victims of Trafficking in Persons (TIP) since they were lured to work in the marketing company with a false promise of high income and good working conditions.

He said that they were trafficked to one of the Asian countries under the pretext of offering jobs in a marketing firm. The real intent was to make them scam potential investors with fake virtual assets.

How did it happen? 

It all started after the individuals saw a Facebook advertisement for a job offer from a foreign company to work in digital marketing. They were hired sometime last year through an online interview.

The company issued free tickets and arranged all the travel arrangements. During the journey via Kolkata and Singapore, they were treated well with good accommodations. It appears that it was done to avoid suspicion.

Sources said that the victims were kept in a room consisting of four people who they shared with people from  Myanmar, Indonesia, Vietnam, and others. Their primary focus was on training them to type 40 words per minute and worked 18 hours a day.

Their passports were taken away with the excuse to process their visas and kept with the human resources section and never returned.


The six individuals were forced to flirt with already identified customers via dating apps, through three or four iPhones given by the company. At times they were made to chat with potential customers and build relationships, using fake names and creating four to five Facebook accounts to ‘talk and trick people’.

The employers expected them to portray themselves as rich persons and say that their investment in virtual assets made them rich. They solicited investment from customers under the pretext of building their future together, initially from USD 500 to USD 1,000. And the investors were given profit to encourage them to invest more.

If employees were successful in scamming their customers, they were allowed to sleep early. Those who could not scam people were made to work for long hours, their salary was deducted and some landed up not receiving salary for the month.

Kuensel learnt that though the company agreed to pay about Nu 98,000 a month, they were made to earn commission. The victims were convinced to earn more money to become rich with no proper sleep.

The company showed them fake appreciation certificates from the government to legitimize their operation and avoid suspicion. Employees were not allowed to leave the office compound as security guards were stationed around the building.

Personal phones were taken by the company and kept in lockers while at work and occasionally checked.

To resign, victims were required to pay huge sums as refund and were not allowed to leave easily. They were threatened to be put in a dark room and as punishment, they were put in it.

All the victims met after they reached the company. They worked for less than a month. They did not get the first month’s salary. Kuensel learnt that two of the victims lost 72 percent of their salary as they failed to scam which violated the company’s rule.

The company’s yearly revenue target is USD 33 million.