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Fugitive South African CEO ordered to pay $3.4bn in record fraud case involving Bitcoin

Fugitive South African CEO ordered to pay $3.4bn in record fraud case involving Bitcoin
Lights illuminate USB cables inside a 'mining rig' computer, used to mine cryptocurrency, in Budapest, Hungary, on Wednesday, 31 January 2018. (Photo: Akos Stiller/Bloomberg)

A US judge has ordered a South African executive to pay more than $3.4-billion (R62.3-billion) in restitution and fines for a fraud scheme involving Bitcoin — the highest-ever civil monetary penalty in any US Commodity Futures Trading Commission case.

Cornelius Johannes Steynberg, the founder and chief executive officer of Mirror Trading International Proprietary, committed fraud tied to retail foreign-currency transactions, among other violations, the agency said in a statement that announced the order by US District Judge Lee Yeakel.

Between 2018 and 2021, Steynberg took part in a global “fraudulent multi-level marketing scheme” to solicit Bitcoin from people for participation in an unregistered commodity pool operated by Mirror Trading, according to the regulator. 

He solicited at least 29,421 Bitcoin — worth more than $1.7-billion in March 2021 — from at least 23,000 individuals in the US and more from around the world, for participation in an unregistered commodity pool that his company operated.

“Either directly or indirectly, the defendants misappropriated all of the Bitcoin they accepted from pool participants,” CFTC said.

Though the agency slapped Steynberg with the fine, it cautioned that it “may not result in the recovery of any money lost because wrongdoers may not have sufficient funds or assets”.

Steynberg, a fugitive from South African law enforcement, has been detained in Brazil on an Interpol arrest warrant since the end of 2021, the CFTC said. The regulator has permanently barred him from trading in any CFTC-regulated markets. BM/DM


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  • Martin Bongers says:

    Mr Steynberg is detained in Brazil on an Interpol arrest warrant for a 3.4Bn fraud, because the US goes after people that steal from their citizens. Even if no money is returned, at least one of the perpetrators of fraud ends up having a really bad time.

    The Gupta’s slipping through the cracks is not acceptable! We might never get restitution from their crimes. They do however need to suffer some sanction from their behavior.

    • Roelf Pretorius says:

      Well, apparently the Magnitsky Act in the USA was used to freeze the Gupta’s assets in the USA, in much the same way as that the Russian oligarches and Vladimir Putin was treated. And I would think that that probably happened in most other western (or rather “northern” countries in the international political arena) also, because most of them had Acts similar to the Magnitsky Act. So the Guptas have already seen some consequences for their actions.

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