The founders of a South African cryptocurrency investment firm have disappeared with a staggering 63,000 bitcoins ($2.09 billion) in what appears to be the largest exit scam in crypto history.
Africrypt, led by founder and Chief Executive Officer Raees Cajee and his brother and Chief Operating Officer Ameer Cajee, was founded in 2016 and offered global money transfers and investment opportunities.
All seemed to fine at the firm until it was claimed in April that the company had been hacked and had to halt operations. In a letter to clients, the company claimed that client accounts, client wallets and nodes well all compromised and that a process had begun to retrieve stolen funds.
Investors, however, were immediately suspicious given that Ameer asked them not to report the incident to lawyers and authorities because it would allegedly slow down the recovery process of the missing funds.
Some investors did contact lawyers, hiring the law firm Hanekom Attorneys. The law firm then started liquidation proceedings against Africrypt, Bloomberg reported today.
An investigation by the law firm found Africrypt’s pooled funds were transferred from its South African accounts and client wallets and then went through tumblers and mixers or to other large pools of bitcoin to make them nearly impossible to trace.
Through the investigation, questions have also been raised about the operation’s legitimacy. The law firm found that the funds being held may not have come from South African investors alone and that it appeared that the company might have been part of an international money laundering operation.
Raising further suspicion, clients were also requested to sign an investment with a Hong Kong-based company called RaeCreateWealth Ltd. which limited the company’s liability for any loss. More red flags emerged when the firm started offering returns of 2% to 11% per month and in some cases promised clients returns of 10% per day using a computerized algorithm.
The brothers are said to have fled to the U.K. within days of disclosing the hack and have not been seen or heard from since, according to MoneyWeb.
The apparent exit scam comes after the collapse of Mirror Trading International, a South African bitcoin trader in 2020 that saw the loss of about 23,000 digital coins valued at $1.2 billion at the time.
The Africrypt scam has been reported to South Africa’s Financial Sector Conduct Authority and the SA Reserve Bank. The value of the missing bitcoin was about $4 billion at the time the brothers disappeared.
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