Finalmente Global placed in final liquidation as MTI dominoes start falling

Written by Ciaran Ryan. Posted in Journalism

Pretoria High Court skips the provisional step and jumps straight to final liquidation for the first MTI-linked organisation to fall. More are expected. From Moneyweb.

Fletcher says Finalmente can be classified as a multi-level marketing scheme where investors or members earn commissions for introducing new members.
Fletcher says Finalmente can be classified as a multi-level marketing scheme where investors or members earn commissions for introducing new members.

Finalmente Global, a company which purported to be an advertising company but appears to have been linked to the now-collapsed Mirror Trading International (MTI), was placed in final liquidation in the Pretoria High Court on January 12.

This follows an application to the court by three Finalmente Global investors: Robert and Candice Fletcher, and Marcel Beech.

Robert Fletcher’s affidavit says he is owed R847 800 by Finalmente, or about 1.5 bitcoin. An investigator for the applicants says upwards of R500 million could be at risk in the scheme.

The sole director of the company was Kobus van der Merwe, who “failed to ensure proper management and good governance of the company, and should the liquidation be granted the assets which consist of the bitcoins of the members of (Finalmente) which are still in the possession of the company may be misappropriated.”

No-one from Finalmente turned up to defend the action.

As Moneyweb previously reported, Finalmente Global purported to be an internet advertising company that could generate returns of 106% by buying bulk ads and selling them for a profit. It apparently did this by encouraging investors to ‘lend’ bitcoin, much of which was channelled to MTI.

In late December Finalmente wrote to investors claiming MTI’s well-reported difficulties had nothing to do with it, and there was no affiliation between the two. Then last week it sent out another message saying that due to the demise of MTI, Finalmente had lost a substantial amount of money from a loss of advertising revenue as well as investments it had placed in the company.

Read:
MTI: Provisional liquidators appointed (13 Jan, 2021)
FBI jumps onto MTI investigation (Jan 4, 2021)
Liquidators swarm MTI (Dec 23, 2020)
MTI CEO goes AWOL, lawyers pull out (Dec 22, 2020)

Fletcher’s affidavit lays out the background to Finalmente, saying it was registered as a cryptocurrency trader in 2019 and solicited bitcoin from members of the public. Investors were then instructed to move bitcoin to a wallet controlled by Finalmente, at which point investors lost control of their crypto assets.

This bitcoin was supposedly traded on a trading platform, though there appears to be no evidence of this. Fletcher says Finalmente can be classified as a multi-level marketing scheme where investors or members earn commissions for introducing new members. Trading profits from the scheme would be reflected in the investor’s Finalmente account, to which would be added commissions from new investors introduced.

“(Finalmente’s) business model was set up to function as a ‘referral’ structure, the purpose of this was to recruit new investors/members on a daily basis in order to generate income.”

Fletcher says he got involved when a friend introduced him to the scheme, which was offering returns of up to 7% a week. He originally invested R155 000 and was so impressed with the reported growth that he subsequently invested further amounts.

The total amount invested by the three applicants in the case came to R1.2 million. When Fletcher tried to withdraw R59 000 on January 4, 2021, he received a “pending withdrawal” notification, but no money was ever paid over to him.

Based on this, and the messages from Finalmente saying it could no longer continue operating, the company is both factually and commercially insolvent and it was therefore just and equitable to wind it up, says Fletcher’s affidavit.

In his affidavit Fletcher alleges that Finalmente is involved in illicit business dealings and an urgent liquidation is required to trace all wallets containing bitcoin belonging to investors.

Liquidators are expected to be appointed by the court in the coming days, and will then be tasked with tracing whatever assets remain in the company.

MTI: Provisional liquidators appointed

Written by Ciaran Ryan. Posted in Journalism

Have until March 1 to prepare a report before final liquidation order can be granted. From Moneyweb.

The first meeting of creditors will take place six to eight weeks after the final liquidation order is granted. Image: Shutterstock
The first meeting of creditors will take place six to eight weeks after the final liquidation order is granted. Image: Shutterstock

The Master of the Cape High Court has appointed four provisional liquidators to track down whatever assets they can from Mirror Trading International (MTI), the bitcoin investment scheme that stopped paying out members’ requests for withdrawals in December after its CEO, Johann Steynberg, went Awol.

Read:
FBI jumps onto MTI investigation (Jan 4, 2021)
Liquidators swarm MTI (Dec 23, 2020)
MTI CEO goes AWOL, lawyers pull out (Dec 22, 2020)

The four provisional liquidators appointed are AW van Rooyen, H Bester, Jacolien Frieda Barnard, and Deidre Basson.

MTI hoovered up an estimated 23 000 bitcoin, currently valued at about R12.5 billion, by the time it shut down in December.

It promised investors up to 10% return a month using a computerised trading system, first trading forex, then bitcoin, although the Financial Sector Conduct Authority (FSCA) could not find any evidence of trading success by the company.

The FSCA alerted the public to the dangers of investing with MTI last year and advised members to ask for their money back.

Despite this, the volume of bitcoin flowing to MTI appeared to grow as the company put out messages claiming the FSCA had overreached its powers and had no jurisdiction over it.

A leaked Zoom meeting between senior MTI executives and leaders seems to suggest no-one had any idea it was all a scam, and pinned the blame on the now missing CEO Steynberg, who is reckoned to control about 7 000 bitcoin worth about R3.8 billion. He is believed to be in Brazil. Angry MTI members posting on social media are not buying the claim that Steynberg acted alone.

The provisional liquidators will now commence the task of tracking down and taking control of the assets and liabilities of MTI.

Inquiry

There will also likely be a Section 417/418 inquiry in terms of the Companies Act to interrogate executives of the company to find out what happened in the company and, more particularly, what happened to the assets.

MTI members hoping for a quick recovery of assets may be disappointed, as the scale and complexity of the investigation will likely take several years before there is any finality. The provisional liquidators have until March 1 to submit a report detailing the assets and liabilities of MTI, at which point a final liquidation order will likely be granted.

Anyuschka Nett, senior attorney with Luitingh Attorneys, says creditors can now start to submit claims in anticipation of the final liquidation order being granted.

“There is a risk, however, depending on the scale of any shortfall in assets, that some members may have to contribute to the costs of the liquidation. We will only know this once we have the report from the provisional liquidators.”

Nett says the first meeting of creditors will take place six to eight weeks after the final liquidation order is granted. At the first meeting of creditors, claims will have to be lodged and creditors will be allowed to vote on the appointment of a final liquidator.

The provisional liquidators appointed were recommended by Recovery Action Group (RAG), a group of MTI members hoping to recover some of their investments.

Trackers

There are various international law enforcement teams looking at the MTI scam, with trackers being placed on bitcoin wallets linked to MTI and its leaders to make sure bitcoin are not transferred to third parties.

Bitcoin.com reports blockchain intelligence firm Whitestream as saying some MTI bitcoin were sent to crypto “mixers” which is a way of attempting to hide the source of the bitcoin.

Whitestream says this is a common tactic used by “other popular Ponzi schemes we already saw this year”.

Cyber security and crypto expert Vaughn Victor says “mixers” such as the Wasabi wallet are often used to hide bitcoin movements, but are only partially effective.

“It’s a more complicated process to track bitcoin going into and out of a Wasabi and other mixer wallets, but it can be done. Most people using wallets like this are doing it for criminal purposes.”

Due to the volume of claims involved, creditors are being encouraged to lodge claims even before the final liquidation order is granted, and can do so here.

RAG is posting regular news updates on MTI, Finalmente Global and other suspected bitcoin scams here.

The provisional liquidators will also communicate separately with creditors in the coming weeks.

Is there a crypto bubble anywhere in sight?

Written by Ciaran Ryan. Posted in Journalism

With bitcoin’s 20% drop in three days, some of the air has started wheezing out of the bubble. From Moneyweb.

While a bitcoin correction would not be surprising, the rise in ‘cold’ wallet storage indicates that buyers have little intention of selling. Image: Shutterstock
While a bitcoin correction would not be surprising, the rise in ‘cold’ wallet storage indicates that buyers have little intention of selling. Image: Shutterstock

Veteran crypto investors have seen this picture before. Bitcoin nearly doubled since the beginning of December to January 8, 2021, then the bubble started to blow off some steam with a 20% price drop in the last three days.

It’s much the same story for Ethereum, Litecoin, Bitcoin Cash and other cryptocurrencies, all of them virtually doubling over a period of five weeks. Ethereum is down 24% in the last two days after coming within a whisker of its previous all-time high of $1 450.

The spectacle of Trump supporters invading Capital Hill last week and the aftermath of a contested election only fuelled an already white-hot crypto furnace.

The last time we saw something like this was in December 2017, when the bitcoin price almost doubled to $20 000. Last week, bitcoin hit $41 000, more than doubling its price in little over a month, before dropping 20%.

Read:
Why Bitcoin’s price is at an all-time high (Jan 8)
Two-day bitcoin plunge shakes faith in cryptocurrency boom (Jan 11)

After the 2017 peak, the price crashed by 84% over the next year before beginning a slow recovery. This time analysts are suggesting the price drop is unlikely to be as severe, in large measure because of substantial institutional buying power now being firehosed into cryptos.

But the parabolic rise in the bitcoin price over the last month puts it into seriously overbought territory, and a correction is overdue.

Bitcoin price in USD

Source: CoinDesk

The flow of institutional money into bitcoin could get a whole lot bigger should the US Securities Exchange Commission approve a bitcoin exchange-traded fund (ETF) this year. While this should be positive for bitcoin in the longer term, in the near term it could have a negative impact on price, according to a recent report from JP Morgan.

Many institutions hunting for exposure to bitcoin are required to do so by buying shares in Grayscale Bitcoin Trust, for which they pay a premium to net asset value. JP Morgan argues the arrival of a bitcoin ETF would reduce this premium and result in some of these institutions selling out of Grayscale once the six month lock-up period expires.

While that might hurt the bitcoin price in the short term, there seems little prospect of a drop similar to that of 2018.

Read: After bitcoin’s explosive rally in 2020, what will 2021 bring?

According to this analysis by Investtech.com, bitcoin’s price has broken out of its rising channel, which is a positive indicator. “This signals an even stronger growth rate. There is no resistance in the price chart and further rise is indicated. In case of a negative reaction, the stock has support at approximately $19 000.”

Source: Investtech.com

A recent report by Kraken Intelligence identifies number of reasons for the recent surge in cryptos:

  1. Big Buying: Institutional adoption continued as companies such as MassMutual, SkyBridge Capital and One River Asset Management made multimillion-dollar Bitcoin allocations, while the CME announced it would offer ETH futures and Dow Jones said it will provide cryptocurrency indices in 2021.
  2. More room for upside: The most recent parabolic run has left plenty of room for speculation among believers and sceptics. The technicals provide a much simpler picture – there is room for upside. Kraken projects prices could continue even higher, as history shows major crypto market tops often reach specific multiples of major indicators.
  3. Correlation to riskier markets: A tighter correlation between bitcoin and riskier traditional assets has emerged.

“Notwithstanding bitcoin and the broader market’s momentum since October 2020, it ought to be noted that January is, on average, the second most volatile and third worst-performing month on record. Not to mention, when looking at historical first quarter returns, one can see that the first quarter is typically a negative yielding period for bitcoin,” says Kraken Intelligence.

Bitcoin ‘whales’ – those with more than 100 bitcoin – accumulated an additional 47 500 bitcoin during the cryptocurrency’s ruthless December rally.

This was accompanied by bitcoin buyers taking purchases offline, storing crypto assets in ‘cold’ wallets (disconnected from the internet, to safeguard against hacking). This is a signal that they have little intention of selling.

In prior bull markets, bitcoin has traded up anywhere from 10 to 15 times its 200-week moving average, which is currently around $8 000. If history is any guide, this would imply a price of between $79 040 and $118 560, says Kraken Intelligence.

MTI claims its first commercial scalp, as Finalmente Global closes

Written by Ciaran Ryan. Posted in Journalism

It was responsible for funnelling clients to Mirror Trading International, now in provisional liquidation. From Moneyweb.

Image: Shutterstock
Image: Shutterstock

The collapse of Mirror Trading International (MTI), now under provisional liquidation, has claimed its first commercial casualty in the form of Finalmente Global, which this week announced that it was closing down due to the demise of MTI, which was placed in provisional liquidation in December after failing to pay out members requesting withdrawals.

Read:
FBI jumps onto MTI investigation (4 Jan 2021)
Liquidators swarm MTI (Dec 23)
MTI CEO goes AWOL, lawyers pull out (Dec 22)

Moneyweb understands an application for the provisional liquidation of Finalmente is being prepared and will be filed in high court within days. Finalmente Global purported to be an internet advertising company that could generate returns of 106% by buying bulk ads and selling them for a profit. It apparently did this by encouraging investors to ‘lend’ bitcoin, much of which was channelled to MTI.

Cyber security and crypto expert Vaughn Victor, who is part of the team representing two Finalmente clients preparing to bring the court application, says it is reckoned that company funnelled between 20 000 and 30 000 clients to MTI, a bitcoin investment scheme offering returns of up to 10% a month.

Like MTI, Finalmente was a multi-level marketing scheme offering referral marketing fees of between 1% to 3% on “downline” customers introduced to the scheme.

One Finalmente customer contacted by Moneyweb says he had no idea that here was any link between MTI and Finalmente, and passed on the following email from CEO Kobus van der Merwe, sent on December 22, 2020, supposedly putting sunlight between the two companies.

“The current state of affairs of Mirror Trading International is that of Mirror Trading International and NOT Finalmente Global. The concerning matters of Mirror Trading International do not affect the daily dealings of Finalmente Global. Finalmente Global merely advertised Mirror Trading International for and on behalf of certain business leaders (who bought and paid for these services). The association between the two companies ends at that. Nothing more.

“Finalmente Global (Pty) Ltd is a South African registered company. Crypto is not regulated in South Africa and is considered an asset. Therefore Finalmente Global is not FSCA registered as all our dealings are in Bitcoin. Should and if the need arises, Finalmente Global will comply with statutory regulatory bodies pertaining to the relevant bodies’ regulations.

“Finalmente Global is NOT Mirror Trading International. There is a significant difference between the platforms and their respective business models.

“There are contingency plans, and security protocols in place should anything cause me, Kobus van der Merwe, CEO of Finalmente Global to become incapacitated for whatever reason. Funds are not stored on our platform due to various security reasons.

“These are two different companies with no other affiliations.”

The Moneyweb reader, who asked not to be named, says his 84-year-old father invested R25 000 into Finalemente in the hope of boosting his pensioner’s income. There are now serious doubts about the recovery of that investment.

“I was under the impression that they bulk buy internet advertising space and sell it at a profit,” says the reader. “Now I think that the ‘advertising’ leg of their business was to pay influencers to create an impression that they can be trusted, knowing that people will do research and most likely believe the review videos they will come across on Youtube (many of them have since been removed, though there are still endorsements of Finalmente here].

“SA seems to be the Nigeria of crypto scams.”

Earlier this week, Finalmente posted the following notice and removed all other information from its website and other social media channels:

Dear Members,

It is with heavy heart that we have to inform you that due to the demise of MTI, we too, have lost a substantial amount of money, not only due to the investment we have/had with them but also the revenue stream of advertising.

As most of you know our business was advertising based, MTI being one of our largest clients in that aspect of our business. Due to the false impression of our association with MTI a large portion of our other clients have also cancelled our mandate.

Due to this we have lost a substantial portion of our income, as a result we are no longer lucrative enough to continue trading and we have had to retrench our staff and suspend all further trade.

This website will be suspended for an indefinite period. We will keep you advised of any further developments.

We apologise for any inconvenience caused.

With regret,

Management Finalmente Global (Pty) Ltd

In June 2020, Finalmente came to the attention of Behindmlm.com, a website monitoring multi-level marketing schemes around the world.

According to this Youtube video, the company came into existence in 2019 and was formed by three partners involved in online marketing and the online earnings industry. “Due to the many non-legit programs and scams actively operating on the internet it was presenting itself to be an opportunity to assist the community by creating a platform where members’ funds would be used in transparent ways to generate profits,” says the marketing blurb.

Moneyweb was unable to reach Finalmente for comment.

FBI jumps onto MTI investigation

Written by Ciaran Ryan. Posted in Journalism

MTI’s collapse under suspicion of fraud is attracting heavyweight international law enforcement attention. From Moneyweb.

Image: Richard Sheinwald, Bloomberg News.
Image: Richard Sheinwald, Bloomberg News.

As bitcoin hit R500 000 over the weekend, the scale of the Mirror Trading International (MTI) collapse is growing by the day.

This weekend it was confirmed that the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has thrown its weight behind the international investigation into MTI, the bitcoin investment scheme which promised returns as high as 10% a month. The scheme managed to attract a reported 23 000 bitcoin from around the world, most of this coming in the last seven months. This is worth around R11 billion at current bitcoin prices.

According to legal advisor Hendrik van Staden, speaking on a recent webinar with US lawyers on recent developments on the case, the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has started monitoring the scheme, which stopped paying out members’ requests for withdrawals in early December, resulting in the Cape High Court placing MTI under provisional liquidation just before Christmas.

This was confirmed by members of the Recovery Action Group (RAG), which was formed in the last few weeks to represent the interests of MTI investors.

“The FBI is obliged to get involved wherever suspected fraud using US dollars is involved,” says Advocate Vaughn Victor, a cyber security and crypto expert involved in investigating financial fraud. “Because of the international nature of this investigation, there will be multiple law enforcement agencies from around the world getting involved.”

Though MTI claimed to have 280 000 members, research by Victor says the actual number was closer to 60 000, with many of these members creating “downline” accounts to beef up the numbers so as to benefit from the 10% commissions paid for introducing new members.

Based on the number of visitors to the RAG website, it is estimated that roughly 46% of MTI members are based outside of SA, with about 23% of these in North America. In financial terms, the largest volume of investments outside of SA are reckoned to have come from the UK and US.

Stuart Fraenkel of US law firm Nelson & Fraenkel says evidence is emerging that the bulk of US investors in MTI are based in California.

In recent months, regulators in Texas and Canada sounded the alarm over MTI’s business practices. The company is accused of making misleading claims about its returns, while the Quebec Financial Market Authority listed MTI as a company that solicits investors illegally. SA’s Financial Sector Conduct Authority (FSCA) also issued a warning about MTI’s business practices.

Fraenkel says information obtained from the Texas State Securities Board, working with the FBI, shows some of the “bad actors” within MTI are based in California and two of them are in bankruptcy. “Authorities here [in the US] will be digging to see where did the bitcoin go, and there will be a claw-back provision.”

The investigation will require cooperation between legal authorities and law enforcement agencies in multiple jurisdictions to help in tracking down the bitcoin shipped by investors to MTI.

The picture is complicated by different national laws which could hamper the task of clawing back missing assets in different parts of the world.

The investigators will have to track down bitcoin from multiple wallets that may be well hidden, and return these assets to the control of MTI. They will then have to be aggregated to see what is left of the estimated 23 000 bitcoin sent by investors to MTI.

The founder and CEO of MTI, Johann Steynberg, reportedly fled to Brazil in early December and went out of communication with management about a week later. This was after the FSCA issued a warning to the public to avoid MTI and its claims of high investment returns. In October, the authority launched a search and seizure raid on MTI’s offices and the homes of executives and in December issued a report blowing holes in MTI’s claims of being a successful bitcoin trading company. The scheme started to unravel shortly afterwards.

Read:
MTI plans countersuit after FSCA raid on offices and homes of execs (28 Oct 2020)
FSCA opens criminal case against MTI, says investigation ‘nearly complete’ (17 Dec 2020)

Liquidators are likely to be appointed within the next couple of days and can then start the legal process to freeze MTI’s assets. They will then seek the cooperation of authorities around the world to block the transfer of bitcoin belonging to investors. The MTI server is reportedly based in India, which has severe penalties for those engaged in financial crimes.

Victor says bitcoin “wallets” known to be under the control of MTI and those associated with it are being monitored and tracked to prevent assets being transferred to third parties. Members are being asked to nominate their preferred liquidators by signing on here or here.

Once the liquidators are appointed, they will ask the court for extended powers to assist in the tracking and recovery of assets internationally. They are also likely to convene a Section 417/418 inquiry under the Companies Act to interrogate MTI executives and leaders who profited from the scheme to assist in tracking down the assets.

It appears MTI had only one director, Steynberg, who was responsible for the day-to-day running of the company and the issue of payments. This in itself appears to be a violation of the Companies Act, given the apparent absence of a board and the various governance committees required for a company of this size.

MTI placed in provisional liquidation and damage could be huge

Written by Ciaran Ryan. Posted in Journalism

Provisional liquidator to be appointed in the next few days to establish what happened to the estimated 23 000 bitcoin – worth R9.45bn. From Moneyweb.

Recovery Action Group hastily convened to represent as many of the 280 000 members as possible. Image: Shutterstock
Recovery Action Group hastily convened to represent as many of the 280 000 members as possible. Image: Shutterstock

The Cape High Court placed bitcoin investment scheme Mirror Trading International (MTI) in provisional liquidation on Tuesday (December 29).

The court order instructs the sheriff to attach all property that appears to belong to MTI in all provinces and submit an inventory to the Master of the Cape High Court.

No one from MTI turned up in court to defend the action. 

A group called Recovery Action Group (RAG) was hastily convened over the last few days to represent as many of the estimated 280 000 members as possible to speak with one voice before the court and the regulators.

There was a fear that multiple liquidators were circling MTI with a view to feasting on its carcass, but in the end, the court granted the provisional liquidation order to MTI member Anton Lee, who had been trying unsuccessfully to withdraw funds from the company since December 21.

Tracking down the trades

A provisional liquidator will be appointed within the next few days to commence the mammoth task of tracking down the assets of senior MTI management and leaders.

Moneyweb has been inundated with emails from members as far afield as the US, Canada and Mexico asking for news about the fate of their investments.

Advocate Vaughn Victor, a cybersecurity and crypto expert who is part of the team representing Lee, says it now appears that investors shipped roughly 23 000 bitcoin (worth R9.45 billion at current prices) to MTI.

Most of this was done within the last seven months – well after the Financial Sector Conduct Authority (FSCA) issued warnings to the public to steer clear of the company which lured investors from all over the world with promises of returns of up to 10% per month.

Liquidators swarm MTI

Written by Ciaran Ryan. Posted in Journalism

Two applications for the liquidation of Mirror Trading International were filed in the high court on Wednesday by investors unable to withdraw funds. From Moneyweb.

MTI members interested in joining a liquidation application have been invited to signal their interest by the attorney repesenting one of the applicants. Image: Shutterstock
MTI members interested in joining a liquidation application have been invited to signal their interest by the attorney repesenting one of the applicants. Image: Shutterstock

Just a day after confirmation that Mirror Trading International’s (MTI) CEO Johann Steynberg had gone AWOL, two applications were filed in the Cape High Court for the liquidation of the company.

Both cases were brought by MTI investors who have been trying to withdraw funds from the bitcoin investment scheme that promised returns of up to 10% a month.

The Financial Sector Conduct Authority (FSCA) issued a statement several months ago advising the public to steer clear of MTI and ask for their money back on the grounds that it was operating without a financial services provider licence and was making extravagant claims.

Rapid growth in membership

Despite the adverse publicity and FSCA warnings, the number of MTI members grew from about 80 000 to a reported 280 000 in the last five months.

Read:Joining MTI may end in tears (Aug 20)
Get-rich-quick scheme pulls a crowd, despite regulators calling time-out (Aug 28)

One of the applications was brought by MTI investor Anton Lee and is likely to be heard on an urgent basis on Thursday (December 24).

Another application for MTI’s winding up, also before the Cape High Court, was brought by Steven Watkins who is owed R150 000 by MTI and has been unable to withdraw funds from his MTI account since December 21.

MTI does not know if its bitcoin is safe

Written by Ciaran Ryan. Posted in Journalism

Members will have to wait until Monday to find out. From Moneyweb.

Questions abound regarding the safety of the 17 000 bitcoin (worth around R5.6bn) reported to be under MTI's control. Image: Chris Ratcliffe, Bloomberg
Questions abound regarding the safety of the 17 000 bitcoin (worth around R5.6bn) reported to be under MTI’s control. Image: Chris Ratcliffe, Bloomberg

Mirror Trading International (MTI) issued a ‘critical statement’ on Tuesday saying its missing CEO Johann Steynberg is alive and probably in Brazil, but that “management and leaders do not know if our bitcoin is safe”.

This statement comes just a day after Ulrich Roux & Associates withdrew as the company’s legal representatives, citing the disappearance of Steynberg and the fact that MTI members are not receiving their withdrawals as they have in the past.

The law firm confirmed that MTI management “have no way of contacting Steynberg”.

MTI is reported to have 280 000 members worldwide, and claimed to generate returns of up to 10% a month using a computer trading algorithm. The Financial Sector Conduct Authority (FSCA) has warned people to steer clear of the company and these claims of high returns.

The statement issued by MTI says the last time management heard from Steynberg was December 15. The same statement quotes Steynberg’s wife Nerina as saying he is heading back to SA on December 22, though MTI management has no knowledge of this.

The following extract is taken from the MTI statement:

  • Johann has not been truthful with management, leaders or members.
  • We as management and leaders do not know if our bitcoin is safe.
  • Management has contacted the server team; they are co-operating fully.
  • Management has been in contact with the broker, Trade300, but now believe this company is potentially owned and operated by Johann Steynberg. Communication with the broker has been sparse and unforthcoming.
  • The whole management team is co-operating with law enforcement and will continue to do so until this matter is resolved.
  • Nerina Steynberg (Johann’s wife) is yet to file a missing persons’ report.

The MTI statement goes on to say that things started unravelling quickly after the search and seizure raid by the FSCA in October, when the offices and homes of MTI executives were raided and several phones and electronic devices seized.

MTI CEO goes AWOL, lawyers pull out

Written by Ciaran Ryan. Posted in Journalism

It’s not looking good for the 280 000 members planning on harvesting profits before Christmas. From Moneyweb.

Where is MTI founder and CEO Johann Steynberg? Image: Shutterstock
Where is MTI founder and CEO Johann Steynberg? Image: Shutterstock

Where’s Johann? Panama, Brazil, South America? Speculation is running rife as to the whereabouts of bitcoin trading group Mirror Trading International (MTI) founder and CEO Johann Steynberg who apparently left the country on December 3, 2020 and hasn’t been seen since.

According to a statement released by MTI management on December 19, he remained in contact with them until about a week ago and then seemingly went off the grid and has since been uncontactable.

Several months ago, the Financial Sector Conduct Authority (FSCA) issued a warning to the public to steer clear of MTI, which promised returns of up to 10% a month using a computerised trading algorithm which was claimed to have lost only one day out of 200.

Read:
FSCA investigating Mirror Trading International (Aug 19)
Joining MTI may end in tears (Aug 20)
Get-rich-quick scheme pulls a crowd, despite regulators calling time-out (Aug 28)
Anonymous data dump ‘spills the beans’ on Mirror Trading International (Sep 21)
MTI plans countersuit after FSCA raid on offices and homes of execs (Oct 28)

To participate in the scheme, members had to buy bitcoin and ship it to a wallet apparently controlled by Steynberg.

Despite the adverse publicity, MTI’s membership seems to have grown. Last week MTI marketing executive Cheri Marks told Moneyweb the company had 280 000 members. In October, the number of bitcoin reportedly under MTI control was 17 000, which would have a current value of about R5.6 billion.

On Monday, MTI’s legal representative Ulrich Roux & Associates withdrew as attorneys of record for the group. In a letter outlining the reasons for the withdrawal, the law firm states: “It has recently come to our attention that the CEO of Mirror Trading International, Mr Johann Steynberg, is no longer in South Africa, and that the remaining members of the MTI management team have no way of contacting Steynberg. In addition to this, we have been informed that MTI members are not receiving their withdrawals, as they have in the past.”

The letter goes on to say that Ulrich Roux & Associates has been in contact with the FSCA “and will continue to provide assistance and cooperation to the FSCA pertaining to their ongoing investigation into MTI, subject to the parameters of legally privileged information.”