Crypto entrepreneur ‘Fluffypony’ warned to appear in Cape regional court on decade-old charge

Written by Ciaran Ryan. Posted in Uncategorized

Riccardo Spagni, once the public face of privacy crypto coin Monero, was arrested in the US last year following an extradition request from SA. From Moneyweb.

Ironically, Spagni is worth many times the amount Cape Cookies claimed was misappropriated. Image: Shutterstock
Ironically, Spagni is worth many times the amount Cape Cookies claimed was misappropriated. Image: Shutterstock

Riccardo ‘Fluffypony’ Spagni, the former lead maintainer and public face of privacy crypto coin Monero, was warned to appear in the Cape regional court over fraud charges dating back to 2011 when he was an IT manager for biscuit company Cape Cookies.

Cape Cookies alleged that he misappropriated R1.45 million through fake invoices while employed by the company. Spagni pleaded not guilty to the charges, but the state alleges he failed to appear in the Western Cape Regional Court last year, and had fled the country.

Read: Criminal underworld is dropping bitcoin for another currency

He was arrested in Nashville, Tennessee on 20 July 2021, while attending a bitcoin conference in the US, following the filing of an extradition request by South Africa.

Ricardo Spagni
Ricardo Spagni. Image Supplied

The SA Police Service said an arrest warrant had been issued, but police were unable to locate his whereabouts. They later found out he had fled the country to the US. Spagni maintained he had not fled the country but was in the US on business and always intended to return to SA.

He was held in custody in Tennessee for 60 days before volunteering to return to SA to face the charges against him.

The US denied him bail as he was considered a flight risk due to “a history of failing to appear and evading justice” and had the means to flee, in the form of a $800 000 watch and significant crypto assets.

Spagni’s lawyers argued that the arrest warrant was irregular and unwarranted.

“In the circumstances, and howsoever it may be construed, our client was arrested for his alleged failure to appear in court, and nothing more. This issue is currently being addressed with the authorities and what is sought is agreement between all parties as to further court dates for the hearing of the matter,” said Spagni’s lawyer in a statement last year.

This week the Western Cape Regional Court confirmed that Spagni is still on warning, as was the case prior to his arrest in the US.

In August 2021, a message from Spagni was tweeted on his behalf by his wife Saskia: “Unfortunately, due to a misunderstanding with regards to the setting of court dates in an old matter, which I have continuously been trying to resolve since 2011, I have been held in contempt of court and [am] currently awaiting extradition. I am hoping to resolve this misunderstanding within a short while. In the meantime my business affairs will continue under the leadership of my partners.”

In court filings, Spagni’s lawyers explain that due to the Covid lockdowns, their client was instructed by the magistrate not to appear in court on 7 April 2020 and to await resummonsing in July 2020.

Spagni was never resummonsed, and the matter was postponed a number of times, but “at no point was [Spagni] warned, summoned or otherwise given legal notice to appear in court, since the lockdown period, until his arrest on 11 July 2022,” reads a court filing by Spagni’s legal team.

Ironically, Spagni is worth many times the amount Cape Cookies claimed was misappropriated. He has denied any wrongdoing.

More commonly known by his social media handle ‘Fluffypony’, Spagni went on to become one of the driving forces behind Monero, a cryptocurrency with enhanced privacy features and anonymity, making it easy to use for illicit activities and a preferred coin for use on the dark web.

Read:Bitcoin criminals set to spend $1b on dark web this year [2019]

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Monero, with a market cap of $2.55 billion, is the world’s 28th largest crypto. It traded at a peak of $475 in August 2021 but has since fallen to $139.

Moneyweb reached out to Spagni’s lawyer, Darren Hanekom, who declined to comment on the case.

Monero in USD

Source: Coinmarketcap.com

Ciaran Ryan

The Writer's Room is a curated by Ciaran Ryan, who has written on South African affairs for Sunday Times, Mail & Guardian, Financial Mail, Finweek, Noseweek, The Daily Telegraph, Forbes, USA Today, Acts Online and Lewrockwell.com, among others. In between he manages a gold mining operation in Ghana, and previously worked in Congo. Most of his time is spent in the lovely city of Joburg.