Another Ponzi Scheme gone wrong? Well, it does seem like it.
Last week, it was reported that the founder and CEO of South Africa-based Mirror Trading International (MTI), Johann Steynberg, has gone M.I.A.
MTI is an unregistered bitcoin trading outlet that boasts offering its members a 10 percent return each month by implementing a specialized trading approach.
The sad thing about this so-tagged trading return is that the recent spike in bitcoin prices would have caused members to earn even more than MTI’s offering. And so the promised returns aren’t exactly mind-blowing, but Johann now seems to have absconded and user funds are in doubt.
Johann’s disappearance is one that has put the members and even the management of MTI in deep worry.
“The last time we heard from Johann was Tuesday, 15 December 2020, at 01:51 am,” reads the statement released by the company’s management some days ago.
The statement ascertained that Johann was alive and currently is in Brazil. At the moment, the management themselves are unsure about the safety of their funds.
“We as management and leaders do not know if our bitcoin is safe,” the management’s statement read. “
And so if the management themselves feel this way, how much more its members?
Johann was reported to have disappeared from South Africa on the 3rd of December. Underlying stories have surrounded his disappearance from South Africa.
Earlier in August, the Financial Sector Conduct Authority (FSCA) in South Africa issued a warning and asked people to withdraw their money from MTI. After issuing the public warning, FCSA went underground to carry out further investigation on MTI.
Fast forward to earlier this month and FCSA opened a criminal case against the bitcoin trading company. In the criminal case, FSCA pronounced the operations at MTI to be illegal and misleading to clients, as they allegedly contravened several laws.
One of the top reasons that sprung FSCA to action in the investigation of MTI’s case is the sudden change in MTI’s choice of broker. MTI formerly used a regulated broker called FXChoice and then switched to Trade3000 who happens to be an unregulated broker.
On the Trade3000 website, it’s stated that the broker is controlled by one “Joe Steyn.” See how that name resembles Johann Steynberg?
And now, in the statement by the management of MTI, it was highlighted that they have struggled to obtain bitcoin from its so-called broker to pay members’ withdrawals.
The management got in contact with the broker, Trade3000, but saw for itself that the company is potentially owned and operated by Johann Steynberg himself. Obviously, response from the “broker” hasn’t been forthcoming.
Another contradictory revelation this case has unraveled is the disparity in what the fund handlers declared previously, and what was later found.
Before this time, MTI’s funds were stated to be handled by Johann, alongside two other top staff. But the investigation has now shown that the funds are in reality managed by Johann and his wife.
And, just yesterday, December 29, the Cape High Court placed MTI in provisional liquidation. The sheriff was instructed to attach all of MTI’s inventory to the master of the Cape High Court.
Now, a whopping 280,000 members are affected and up to 17,000 bitcoin which is worth about USD 450 Mn is in Johann’s custody. In any case, he is still missing, and, right now, it seems like the whole MTI thing is a sham.
Featured Image Courtesy: CryptoZink