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Bitcoin worth billions of dollars is said to have gone, along with the operators of the South African crypto company AfriCrypt. Is it a swindle or a hack?
Approximately 69,000 Bitcoin have gone from a South African investment site, as have two brothers who controlled the crypto business.
Although the facts have yet to be established in court, Bloomberg reports that if it turns out to be an exit scam rather than a hack, it would be the largest in history. There were warning flags for investors in either case, with customers apparently offered daily profits of up to 10%.
AfriCrypt was established in 2019 by brothers Ameer and Raees Cajee. When it delivered a letter to investors on April 13 alleging the site had been hacked, it had apparently amassed about 54 billion rands worth of BTC, or $3.6 billion USD at the time.
The firm said it would halt operations while it began the process of “attempting to retrieve stolen funds and compromised information.”
South African law firm Hanekom Attorneys, which has taken the case on behalf of affected users, said suspicions were aroused as the message included the warning that: “clients may proceed the legal route, but we ask clients to please acknowledge that this will only delay the recovery process.”
“We were immediately suspicious as the announcement implored investors not to take legal action,” Hanekom Attorneys said. The law firm also claimed that “Africrypt employees lost access to the back-end platforms seven days before the alleged hack.”
Hanekom Attorneys claims that the brothers moved 69,000 BTC from AfriCrypt’s accounts and customer wallets, and then submitted the monies to “various dark web tumblers and mixers, resulting in severe fragmentation” to make the assets untraceable.
The brothers have been inaccessible, with calls going to voicemail, and the AfriCrypt website is now down. The legal company has submitted the matter to the national police’s special squad known as the “Hawks.”
The Cajee brothers have been granted a provisional liquidation order by South Africa’s Gauteng South High Court, and they have been given until July 19, 2021 to reply to the decision.
AfriCrypt gained consumers by targeting high nett worth investors and encouraging them to refer their friends, according to African online crypto news portal BitcoinKe, while also promising daily profits of up to 10%.
The eye-watering daily return pales in comparison to the 10% monthly return promised to participants of the South African crypto Ponzi scam Mirror Trading International (MTI).
MTI has been regarded as the country’s largest Ponzi scam, raking in 23,000 BTC from investors ($774 million at today’s values), with MTI’s CEO, Johann Steynberg, apparently fleeing to Brazil to avoid prosecution after the business was placed under provisional liquidation in 2020.