BRIEF: SA Bitcoin manager goes offline

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It may be easier to run away when your paper trail is made of code. 

That appears to be the case for CEO of South African Bitcoin trader, Mirror Trading International, (MTI) Johann Steynberg. News24 reports that Steynberg has not been heard from for four weeks, since the company effectively collapsed in December 2020.

About 260 000 MTI members invested almost $880 million into the company in the hopes of a 10 percent monthly return on their investments, Bloomberg reports. 

The CEO is thought to have fled the country to Brazil… (or somewhere on the dark web?) using the money. He is thought to have control of the company’s wallet, containing 17 000 Bitcoins – that’s about R9 billion – deposited by investors. 

Investors were informed on Telegram that they would not receive their returns or initial investments. The company was provisionally liquidated in December 2020, meaning its assets were sold off. It’s typically what happens before a company is shut down. The Finance Sector Conduct Authority, which regulates financial institutions in SA, said that the company had no license to provide financial services and appeared to be misleading clients, Bloomberg reports. 

Authorities in South Africa and the U.S. are investigating. It seems that all that glitters is not gold, even for Bitcoin.