Court papers filed by the liquidators for failed crypto scam Mirror Trading International (MTI) have lifted the curtain on one of the most extraordinary investment rip-offs in South Africa’s history.

It was rated the world’s biggest crypto scam of 2020, having roped in US$588-million (R7.9-billion) worth of bitcoin in 470 000 transactions, according to the 2021 Crypto Crime Report by Chainalysis.

A data dump by Anonymous ZA puts the number of bitcoin under MTI control at 23 000, worth about R11.5-billion at current prices. According to the liquidators, about 280 000 investors worldwide were involved.

MTI CEO Johann Steynberg disappeared in December 2020 after the company stopped paying out requests for withdrawals in a bitcoin investment scheme that promised returns of up to 10% a month. These promises turned out to be nothing but smoke. The company was provisionally liquidated in December 2020.

Legal argument will be heard next week in the Western Cape high court as to whether MTI will be finally liquidated or whether, based on an affidavit filed by 50% shareholder in MTI, Clynton Marks, the provisional liquidation order should be set aside on various grounds, including that the terms and conditions of the company make it clear that those investing in the scheme were members of a club, rather than creditors.

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