Two brothers accused of fleeing South Africa with $3.6 billion in stolen Bitcoin had bought citizenship for the Pacific island of Vanuatu months earlier, according to a report.
Ameer and Raees Cajee, the founders of a South African cryptocurrency exchange, disappeared earlier this year after telling investors their company had been hacked.
Africrypt – one of the country’s largest cryptocurrency exchanges – informed investors about the hack in April, but asked them not to report it to the police, as it would delay the process of recovering their missing funds. The alleged hack came as Bitcoin’s value soared to record highs.
Now it has been revealed that Raees paid £95,000 for Vanuatu citizenship in October 2020, while Ameer did the same in January, according to documents seen by the guard.
Raees and Ameer, who were unable to reach investor lawyers for months, now claim to be victims of organized crime.
Two brothers accused of fleeing South Africa with $3.6 billion in stolen Bitcoin had bought citizenship for the Pacific island of Vanuatu months earlier, according to a report. Ameer and Raees Cajee, the founders of a South African cryptocurrency exchange, disappeared earlier this year after telling investors their company had been hacked
The Guardian reported that as of January 2020, 2,000 people have bought citizenship from Vanuatu, a remote Pacific island with a population of just 300,000 [Stock image]
Speak with The Wall Street Journal From an unknown location, Raees said he and Ameer were forced to flee South Africa after receiving “death threats” from what he described as “organized crime syndicates.”
He strongly denied all allegations of wrongdoing. Raees also claimed that Africypt never had $3.6 billion (£2.5 billion), telling the newspaper that the missing amount was no more than £3.6 million.
The figure was initially reported by Bloomberg, who said 69,000 coins had disappeared and estimated their value based on Bitcoin’s peak value in April when the money disappeared.
The brothers also promised to cooperate with any future investigations and said they were preparing a file that would prove that Africrypt had been hacked and that they had been stolen.
Some investors have engaged law firm Hanekom Attorneys to investigate the incident discovered that Africrypt’s pooled funds had been withdrawn from customers’ local accounts and wallets, where the coins were originally kept, and then passed through tumblers and mixers – also known as other major pools of Bitcoin – a process that would destroy any attempt to money making it very difficult to trace.
“Africrypt employees lost access to the back-end platforms seven days before the alleged hack,” Hanekom Advocaten told Bloomberg.
The incident was reported to Hawks, an elite national police force that tackles organized crime, economic crime, corruption and other serious crime.
Police found that in the weeks before their disappearance, the brothers lost some significant assets by selling their Lamborghini Huracan, a luxury suite in one of South Africa’s most expensive hotels and a rented beachfront apartment in Durban.
Lawyers also warned crypto exchanges around the world to watch out for attempts to convert the coins.
Raees has strongly denied all allegations of misconduct. He also claimed that Africypt never had $3.6 billion (£2.5 billion), telling the newspaper that the missing amount was no more than £3.6 million. [Stock image]
South Africa’s Financial Sector Conduct Authority is investigating Africrypt but cannot launch an official investigation into the incident because cryptocurrency is not considered a legal financial product in the country, Bloomberg reported, citing Brandon Topham, the watchdog’s enforcement chief. .
However, Gerhard Botha, a Johannesburg lawyer representing 58 investors, was able to obtain a preliminary liquidation order against the fugitives to investigate.
If the funds are not recovered, the incident would be the largest cryptocurrency loss in history.
The Guardian reported that as of January 2020, 2,000 people have bought citizenship from Vanuatu, a remote Pacific island with a population of just 300,000.
The government’s Citizenship Through Investment (CBI) program allows anyone to apply for a passport by paying £95,000.
Successful applicants will not only be granted island citizenship, but also visa-free travel throughout the UK and EU.
CBI schemes are legal and relatively common in small countries, including Malta and Grenada, although some larger countries, such as Austria and Turkey, also have such programs.
According to an analysis by Investment Migration Insider, the CBI plan earned Vanuatu £72 million – 42 percent of all government revenue in 2020.
Among those who have bought citizenship in Vanuatu, according to research by The Guardian, are former Indian politician Vinay Mishra, who is accused of corruption, disgraced Syrian politician Alaa Ibrahhim, and former UN-backed Libyan Prime Minister Fayez. -Sarraj.
In response to the investigation, Vanuatu’s Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) pledged to put strict controls on those named in the report.
Director Floyd Mera told the paper that people with “substantial beliefs” can have their citizenship revoked.
“In the future, the FIU will carry out stricter checks… If any of these persons are criminally convicted, the FIU will immediately inform the Bureau of Citizenship of the updated information,” he said.