Fugitive cryptocurrency developer Riccardo ‘Fluffy Pony’ Spagni en route to SA
Spagni was initially arrested in South Africa on 13 September 2012, facing 400 charges relating to fraud, forgery and uttering involving R1,453,561.47. He fled South Africa in March 2021.
After three years on the run, fugitive cryptocurrency developer Riccardo “Fluffy Pony” Spagni has been extradited to South Africa, where he appeared in court this week.
On the eve of his extradition hearing on 25 May in the US, Spagni waived his rights and agreed to cooperate with authorities. Papers indicate Spagni is a dual South African and Italian citizen.
He was initially arrested in South Africa on 13 September 2012, facing 400 charges relating to fraud, forgery and uttering involving R1,453,561.47. He fled South Africa in March 2021.
The charges relate to fraudulent transactions he allegedly committed while he was employed as information technology manager of Cape Cookies between October 2009 and June 2011. Spagni allegedly intercepted invoices from another company relating to information technology goods and services it had supplied to Cape Cookies.
A protracted investigation resulted in the trial commencing in August 2019 in the Cape Town Regional Court, nearly seven years after his 2012 arrest. Spagni pleaded not guilty to the charges and gave no plea explanation.
Western Cape High Court papers indicate Spagni and his wife had entered the US on 14 April 2021.
On Tuesday, National Prosecuting Authority Western Cape spokesperson Eric Ntabazalila said Spagni had handed himself over to the authorities in the US after a successful extradition application.
“Spagni was arrested in the United States of America on 21 July 2021 pursuant to the request for provisional arrest. South Africa subsequently sought this extradition from the USA.
“Spagni launched various unsuccessful applications in the Western Cape High Court… to resist his extradition. On the eve of his extradition hearing in the USA scheduled for 25 May 2022, the accused waived his rights and agreed to cooperate with the authorities,” Ntabazalila said.
South Africa has extradition agreements with Algeria, Argentina, Australia, Botswana, Canada, China, Egypt, India, Israel, Lesotho, Malawi, Nigeria, Swaziland, United Arab Emirates and the US.
Extradition is a long process, as explained by Dr Omphemetse Sibanda, professor of law and executive dean of the Faculty of Management and Law at the University of Limpopo, in this opinion piece.
This long process and the Western Cape acting Director of Public Prosecutions’ (DPP) attempts to have Spagni returned to South Africa are outlined in correspondence in August 2021, which the acting DPP had sent to the US Department of Justice Criminal Division, Office of International Affairs in Washington, DC.
Spagni appeared in the Cape Town Regional Court on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Arguments centred around the validity of the warrant of arrest and whether Spagni is out on warning or on bail.
Judgment is expected to be handed down on Friday. DM
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