Around 69,000 Bitcoin (BTC) has vanished from a South African investment platform along with two brothers who owned the crypto firm.
Although the facts are yet to be proven in court, if it turns to be an exit scam rather than a hack, it would be the biggest in history according to Bloomberg. There were warning signs for investors either way, with users reportedly promised returns of up to 10% a day.
AfriCrypt was founded in 2019 and operated by brothers Ameer and Raees Cajee. It had reportedly amassed around 54 billion rands worth of BTC, or $3.6 billion at the time, when it sent a message to investors on April 13 claiming the platform had been hacked.
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 alleges that the brothers transferred the 69,000 BTC — which is now worth $2.2 billion after the recent price tumble — from AfriCrypt’s accounts and client wallets and subjected the funds “to various dark web tumblers and mixers, resulting in severe fragmentation” to make the funds untraceable.
The brothers have been unreachable, with calls going directly to voicemail, while the AfriCrypt website is also down. The law firm has reported the case to an elite unit of the national police dubbed the “Hawks.”
South Africa’s Gauteng South High Court has granted a provisional liquidation order against the Cajee brothers, and they have been given until July 19, 2021, to respond to the order.
According to African online crypto news outlet BitcoinKe, AfriCrypt drew in clients by targeting high-net-worth investors and urging them to refer their friends, while also offering returns of up to 10% daily.
The eye-watering daily return puts the 10% monthly return promised to users of South African crypto Ponzi scheme Mirror Trading International into the shade.
MTI has been described as the biggest Ponzi scheme the country had ever seen, pulling in 23,000 BTC from investors ($774 million at today’s prices) with MTI CEO Johann Steynberg reportedly fleeing to Brazil to escape punishment when the firm was placed under provisional liquidation in 2020.