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Brazilian online publication O Popular says he faced mental health problems and died of a massive heart attack on Monday. From Moneyweb.

The Hawks are still trying to confirm reports of MTI boss Johann Steynberg’s death. Image: Via Youtube

Brazilian online publication O Popular reported on Wednesday that former Mirror Trading International (MTI) boss Johann Steynberg died on Monday of a massive heart attack.

Steynberg was under house arrest on a farm in Pirenópolis in the state of Goiás. He was arrested in December 2021, a year after fleeing South Africa, as the MTI crypto scam started to unravel.

O Popular also reports that Steynberg had escalating mental health issues, prompting his lawyer, Thales Jayme, to accompany him to a doctor on 15 April. He was diagnosed with severe anxiety. Just a week later, he reportedly died of a heart attack.

death certificate sourced by Mybroadband suggests Steynberg, a chronic smoker, suffered acute respiratory failure followed by sudden death due to a massive bilateral pulmonary thromboembolism.

News24 reports that the Hawks are still trying to confirm reports of Steynberg’s death.

He was awaiting extradition to SA while under house arrest after he was found guilty of using false documents when approached by local police on a tip-off from Interpol.

Mybroadband reports that Steynberg received a fine of about R595 000 for this relatively small crime, with a three-and-a-half-year sentence that was commuted to an additional fine to be paid to a court-designated charity. This meant he would serve no prison time for fraud, forgery or uttering. That, potentially, would have been his fate had he been extradited to SA.

MTI collapse

MTI collapsed in December 2020 when Steynberg fled the country after the Financial Sector Conduct Authority (FSCA) warned the public to pull their money out of the multi-level marketing scheme on the grounds that it was operating without a licence and promising unsustainable profits of up to 10% a month.

The company was placed in liquidation and, in 2023, was declared a Ponzi scheme by the Western Cape High Court, meaning any withdrawals from MTI were unlawful and must be repaid. The liquidators have interpreted this to mean that any withdrawals of bitcoin from MTI must be returned at today’s prices, triggering a huge backlash from thousands of investors.

Good news and bad news for MTI investors
MTI investors fight back against liquidators’ demands for repayment

Court documents show MTI managed to rope in 29 421 bitcoins (R36.4 billion at today’s price of about R1.24 million) from hundreds of thousands of investors around the world.

Mystery surrounds what has happened to the missing bitcoin, much like the legend of Paul Kruger’s missing gold. MTI liquidators were able to recover nearly 1 200 bitcoin and sell them for about R1.1 billion. Papers filed in the Western Cape High Court suggest at least 6 900 bitcoin are unaccounted for, possibly more.

Steynberg ‘illegally received bitcoin after company liquidated’

Steynberg operated 77 separate accounts in MTI and was presumed to have knowledge of the missing bitcoin. Court papers suggest he illegally received more than 28 bitcoin after the company was liquidated, not counting the bitcoin he received “for no value” prior to this.

Read: It’s liquidators vs liquidators in MTI case

Steynberg’s Brazilian wife, Karine Amelya dos Santos, reportedly said that he had no assets to be inventoried and was unaware of a will. According to documents sourced by Mybroadband, she said he lived in a stable union with her and that they had one minor daughter. 

Steynberg abandoned his South African wife, Nerina, to the shock of many who believed him to be an upstanding Christian of unshakeable faith. When the MTI scheme collapsed, Moneyweb received correspondence from some MTI members who attested to his kindness and generosity.

While in Brazil, he reportedly lived the high life, using a helicopter for leisure and buying forged identity documents and cocaine from his alleged supplier, Rodrigo. He also reportedly bought properties in the names of two girlfriends he maintained in two different cities.

Stenberg’s death may sink any hopes of finding the missing bitcoin.