Two brothers accused of fleeing South Africa with $ 3.6 billion in stolen Bitcoin had purchased citizenship of the peaceful 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 business had been hacked.
Africrypt – one of the largest cryptocurrency exchanges in the country – informed investors in April of the hack but asked them not to report it to police, saying it would slow down the process of recovering their missing funds. The alleged hack came as Bitcoin’s value hit record highs.
It has now emerged that Raees paid £ 95,000 for Vanuatu citizenship in October 2020, with Ameer doing the same in January, according to documents seen by The Guardian.
Raees and Ameer, whom investor lawyers had not been able to reach 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 purchased citizenship of the peaceful 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 business was hacked
The Guardian reported that since January 2020, 2,000 people have purchased citizenship of Vanuatu, a remote Pacific island with a population of just 300,000. [Stock image]
Speaking to 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 “labor unions.” organized crime “.
He firmly denied any allegation of wrongdoing. Raees also claimed Africypt never had $ 3.6bn (£ 2.5bn), telling the newspaper the missing amount was no more than £ 3.6m.
The figure was originally reported by Bloomberg, which said 69,000 coins were gone and estimated their value based on Bitcoin’s peak value in April when the money went missing.
The brothers also pledged to cooperate with any future investigation and said they were preparing a case that would prove Africrypt was hacked and stolen.
Some investors retained the services of the Hanekom Attorneys law firm to investigate the incident and he discovered that Africrypt’s mutual funds were taken out of local accounts and clients’ wallets, where coins were originally held, and then passed into tumblers and mixers – aka other large Bitcoin pools – a process which seriously complicates any attempt to trace money.
“Africrypt employees lost access to major platforms seven days before the alleged hack,” Hanekom’s lawyers told Bloomberg.
The incident was reported to Hawks, an elite national police force that tackles organized crime, economic crime, corruption and other serious crimes.
Police discovered the brothers had lost considerable possessions in the weeks leading up to their disappearance, selling their Lamborghini Huracan, a luxury suite in one of South Africa’s most expensive hotels and a waterfront apartment sea rented in Durban.
The lawyers have also alerted crypto exchanges around the world to be on the lookout for attempts to convert coins.
Raees has firmly denied any allegation of wrongdoing. He also claimed Africypt never had $ 3.6bn (£ 2.5bn), telling the newspaper the missing amount was no more than £ 3.6m. [Stock image]
South Africa’s Finance Sector Conduct Authority is investigating Africrypt, but cannot launch a formal investigation into the incident because the cryptocurrency is not considered a legal financial product in the country, Bloomberg reported citing Watchdog law enforcement chief Brandon Topham.
However, Gerhard Botha, a Johannesburg lawyer representing 58 investors, was able to obtain an interim liquidation order against the fugitives to investigate.
If the money is not collected, the incident would be the biggest cryptocurrency loss in history.
The Guardian reported that since January 2020, 2,000 people have purchased citizenship of Vanuatu, a remote Pacific island with a population of just 300,000.
The government’s Citizenship by Investment (CBI) program allows anyone to apply for a passport by paying £ 95,000.
Successful applicants not only obtain citizenship of the island, but also visa-free travel across the UK and the EU.
CBI programs are legal and relatively common in smaller countries like Malta and Grenada, although some larger countries like Austria and Turkey have such programs in place as well.
According to an Investment Migration Insider analysis, the CBI program brought Vanuatu £ 72million, or 42% of all government revenue in 2020.
Among those who have acquired citizenship in Vanuatu, according to the Guardian’s investigation, are former Indian politician Vinay Mishra, accused of corruption, disgraced Syrian politician Alaa Ibrahhim and former Libyan prime minister backed by the Libyan government. UN Fayez al-Sarraj.
In response to the investigation, Vanuatu’s Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) pledged to carry out strict checks on those named in the report.
Director Floyd Mera told the newspaper that people with “serious convictions” could have their citizenship revoked.
“In the future, the FIU will carry out enhanced checks… If any of these people are convicted of a criminal offense, the FIU will promptly inform the citizenship office of the updated information,” he said.