The Hawks are investigating a number of criminal cases brought by out-of-pocket investors who want two brothers arrested over an allegedly fraudulent cryptocurrency platform.
A group of investors are seeking the arrest of Raees and Ameer Cajee, who ran the Africrypt platform, after a number of them were offered some of the lost investment by a Dubai-based mystery investor known as Pennython Project Management. They haven’t been found guilty of any wrongdoing and the probes may come to nothing.
Work is underway in four South African provinces and cities including Johannesburg and Durban, Lieutenant Colonel Philani Nkwalase, from the Hawks police unit, said in a response to questions from Bloomberg.
"There are multiple victims in these cases," said Nkwalase. "Investigations are ongoing."
The brothers disappeared in April last year just after $3.6 billion of Bitcoin vanished from the Africrypt platform, although the lawyer who represented them at the time later disputed the amount. The Cajees had earlier told clients that the company was the victim of a hack, while urging them not to report the incident to authorities.
Financial statements of the victims relating to the different cases are being analyzed, Nkwalase said. The alleged fraud doesn’t yet have an official value, he said.
Lack of Scrutiny
The fallout has shone a light on the lack of scrutiny over the country’s burgeoning crypto industry, which has boomed in popularity since the surge in Bitcoin just over a year ago. Another South African firm, Mirror Trading International, collapsed in 2020, with losses totaling about $1.2 billion.
The Hawks said they are aware of the arrest of Mirror Trading Chief Executive Officer Johann Steynberg by Brazilian authorities over documentation issues, and they are seperately looking into cases against the firm in South Africa. A lawyer representing Mirror Trading didn’t respond to a request for comment.
The country’s financial regulator is planning to unveil a framework covering cryptocurrencies early this year to help protect vulnerable members of the society, it said last month.
Bitcoin has started the month in a nosedive, registering the largest decline for a start of the year since at least 2012.