A pair of South African brothers who ran a cryptocurrency investment platform called Africypt have gone into hiding along with investors funds worth $3.6 billion in Bitcoin.
Two brothers named Ameer Cajee who acted as the Chief Operating Officer (COO) and Raees Cajee who acted as the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) started a cryptocurrency company called “Africrypt” in Johannesburg, a supposed currency exchange service.
Africrypt provided all-around solutions, including investment opportunities on cryptocurrency and blockchain technology; brokerage services proffering an electronic, off-exchange digital liquidity solution; payment services providing secured digital payments across the domestic, offshore and international market; and full-suite consulting and advisory services for merchant banks and services for the digital world.
The first signs of trouble came in April, when Africrypt COO Ameer Cajee, informed clients that the company was the victim of a hack. He asked investors not to report the incident to lawyers and authorities, as it would slow down the recovery process of the missing funds.
Some sceptical investors did not listen to the request not to alert authorities by the COO and contacted a law firm, Hanekom Attorneys while another group of investors started liquidation proceedings against Africrypt. The law firm said they could not locate the brothers and reported the matter to the Hawks, an elite unit of the national police force.
Cryptocurrency exchanges across the globe have also been alerted should any attempt be made to convert the digital coins to cash.
The law firm stated, “We were immediately suspicious as the announcement implored investors not to take legal action,” in response to emailed questions.
Africrypt employees lost access to the back-end platforms seven days before the alleged hack. The investigation conducted by Hanekom Attorneys found out that Africrypt’s pooled funds were transferred from its South African accounts and client wallets through tumblers and mixers to make them essentially untraceable.
The company’s website is down and attempts to reach the two brothers have not yielded any results. The disappearance of about 69,000 coins, worth more than $4 billion when Bitcoin was trading an all-time high of $65,000, would represent the biggest-ever dollar loss in a cryptocurrency scam. The incident could accelerate regulators’ efforts to impose order in the market amid rising cases of fraud.
The South African Finance Sector Conduct Authority is also looking into Africrypt but is currently prohibited from launching a formal investigation because crypto assets are not legally considered financial products, according to the regulator’s head of enforcement, Brandon Topham. The police have not yet responded to a request for comment.
What this means
This is not the first time cryptocurrency scams are happening in South Africa. This comes just after last year’s collapse of another South African Bitcoin trader, Mirror Trading International.
The losses totalled approximately $1.2 billion in cryptocurrencies and the event is referred to as the biggest crypto scam of 2020. Africrypt investors stand to lose three times as much. This incident will prompt strong regulatory action from the South African authorities and a total ban of cryptocurrencies is likely to happen.