Ameer and Raees Cajee, aged 18 and 20 respectively, founded, in 2019, the cryptocurrency platform Africrypt, in South Africa. Empty customer accounts and 3.6 billion dollars missing later, the brothers will be charged.
According to the complaint, filed with the police by lawyers for an investor group, hundreds of Africrypt users lost access to their accounts during the weeks when Bitcoin reached its all-time high in April 2021.
The most famous virtual currency in the world came to be worth, at that time, $ 63,226 (more than 50 thousand euros euros) per unit.
That month, Africrypt’s chief operating officer, Ameer Cajee, the eldest of the brothers, informed customers that the company had been the victim of a cyber attack and that operations were therefore suspended.
“Our system, the clients’ accounts, their wallets and our records have been compromised”, read an email sent by the platform, on the 13th of April.
In the same message, Ameer Cajee advised investors not to look for “legal routes”, as this “would only delay the process of recovering the missing funds”.
After that, the brothers disappeared for a few days.
The pair’s lawyer, John Oosthuizen, told the BBC that the founders of Africrypt categorically deny any participation in the “theft” or who have run away with the resources. “There is no basis for this accusation”, he defends.
Both “claim that the platform was hacked and that they were victims of a theft,” Oosthuizen said, adding that the two brothers did not seek the police after the robbery and, having received death threats, the first reaction was to guarantee their safety and security. of your family members.
In addition, Ameer and Raees Cajeee prepared a dossier to prove what had happened to the authorities — but, to date, it has not yet been turned over to the authorities.
the brothers’ lawyer refused to confirm how many bitcoins disappeared. But the complaint sent to South Africa’s elite police unit, known as the Hawks, points out that thousands of bitcoins have “completely disappeared.”
The nearly 69,000 bitcoins, which were then worth nearly four billion dollars, represent the biggest loss ever linked to cryptocurrencies.
The investigation, commissioned by the law firm of the affected clients, revealed that the platform’s funds were transferred to accounts in South Africa. can’t track the cryptocurrencies other than that.
For the lawyers, the analysis of this process refutes the possibility that it was a pirated attack, because everything seems to indicate that “Africrypt employees lost access to the customer support platforms seven days before the alleged attack”.
The South African Financial Sector Authority (FSCA) said in a press release sent in late June that encrypted assets are not regulated in South Africa “and consequently the FSCA is not in a position to take any action regulatory.”
As in other countries, South African financial authorities they have no jurisdiction over this type of scam as cryptocurrencies are not legally recognized as financial products.
The press release also says that Africrypt “was offering exceptionally high and unrealistic returns, similar to those offered by illegal investment schemes commonly known as Ponzi (financial pyramid)”. Generally speaking, this consists of using money from new investors to pay dividends to older ones.
A BBC asked the South African police if there was an ongoing investigation, but the institution has not responded as of the publication of this report.