Crypto developer 'Fluffypony' to be extradited to SA to face R1.4 million fraud charge

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Riccardo Spagni.
Riccardo Spagni.
  • South African cryptocurrency developer Riccardo "Fluffypony" Spagni will be extradited from the US to face decade-old fraud charges.
  • Spagni was arrested in July last year when his chartered jet landed in Nashville, Tennessee.
  • He has denied fleeing South Africa or defrauding a Cape Town cookie company. 

South African crypto developer Riccardo Spagni, who was arrested in the US last year at the request of SA authorities, is set to return to South Africa to face fraud charges after he waived his right to an extradition hearing. 

Spagni, known tech circles as "Fluffypony", is a former lead maintainer for privacy-focused cryptocurrency Monera.

He is accused of defrauding Cape Town cookie company Cape Cookies over a decade ago of around R1.4 million by submitting falsified and inflated technology invoices. He has denied the charges against him. 

Spagni has previously said that he intended to return to SA to "address" the accusation he defrauded his former employer and "get it behind me once and for all".

Spagni was arrested in the US in July last year when his chartered jet landed in Nashville, Tennessee, on its way to Mexico. After being kept in custody for 60 days, he was released pending an extradition hearing. He was ordered to stay in Tennessee and surrender his passport. 

A court in Nashville, Tennessee, has now ordered that he be handed over to South African authorities to be flown back to SA after he "knowingly and voluntarily" waived his right to an extradition hearing. 

"The United States shall notify Spagni of the date on which duly authorised representatives of the government of South Africa will depart South Africa to effectuate his arrest," the court ruled.

"On the eve of the date on which the South African representatives begin their travel, Spagni [will] surrender as directed by the United States to the United States Marshal."

A time and place for the handover has not been agreed to. 

The court also ruled that Spagni's passport could be temporarily released to his legal team so that he could apply for a social security number, indicating he intends to return to the US. 

The case against him

According to the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), Spagni "fled" SA in March last year when he was expected to be in court for a trial date in the Cape Cookie fraud case.  

A warrant was issued for his arrest on 19 April that same year when he failed to appear in person at the next court hearing.   

"[His lawyer] told the court that he had informed the accused about the court date telephonically," the NPA said in documents submitted to the US court. 

READ | Playing with fire: NPA denies blaze destroyed bank records in case of fugitive SA crypto techie

"He also advised that he had no instructions regarding Spagni's whereabouts and that he was unable to reach Spagni, and that his phone was just ringing."

Spagni's lawyers have denied that he fled SA, saying he and his wife were in the process of emigrating to the US and had been unable to return to SA in time for the court dates due to strict Covid-19 protocols.

His legal team also previously claimed that the NPA's case against Spagni was weak because "critical" bank records related to Cape Cookies had been lost in a fire, a claim the NPA has denied. 

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