We weren’t involved in R54bn Bitcoin 'heist', say Africrypt brothers; family speak out
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The lawyer of Raees and Ameer Cajee, who founded South African Bitcoin investment firm Africrypt has told the BBC that the brothers "categorically denied" they had been involved in a "heist" or “absconded” with funds.
"There is no foundation to the accusation, and there is no merit to those accusations," said their lawyer, John Oosthuizen. "They maintain that it was a hack, and they were fleeced of these assets."
On June 25, Oosthuizen told the broadcaster that the brothers had not contacted the police after the alleged hack, adding that they had "very little life experience".
He said the brothers had received death threats, and their first reaction was to keep themselves and their families safe.
According to a police complaint by the law firm handling the case on behalf of investors, Hanekom Attorneys, Raees and Ameer Cajee "absconded" with Bitcoin that was at the time valued at $3.6 billion (about R54bn). Darren Hanekom is the attorney handling the case on behalf of investors.
It is alleged that the Cajee brothers transferred the invested pooled funds from a South African account before fleeing to the UK.
The complaint was made on behalf of a group of investors in April.
Africrypt described itself as "an investment firm exclusively focused on cryptocurrency and blockchain technology". It was founded in 2019.
On April 13, the chief operating officer, Ameer Cajee, wrote to Africrypt clients and investments, announcing the firm had halted operations because of a hack.
“We regret to inform you that due to the recent breach in our system, client accounts, client wallets, and nodes were all compromised,” said the statement.
“Unfortunately, this has forced Africrypt to halt operations… We urge all clients to please be patient as we attempt to resolve the situation. It is understandable that clients may proceed the legal route, but we ask clients to please acknowledge that this will only delay the recovery process.”
Hanekom said the funds were “subjected to various dark web tumblers and mixers, resulting in severe fragmentation.“ In other words, the funds were virtually untraceable.
The Financial Sector Conduct Authority said crypto-assets were not regulated in South Africa "and consequently the FSCA is not in a position to take any regulatory action".
The Gauteng South High Court has granted a provisional liquidation order against the two brothers, in favour of about 20 investors. The Cajee brothers have until July 19, 2021, to argue against the liquidation.
On Saturday, the Cajee's cousin Zakira Laher issued a statement. Laher was a one-time director of Africrypt.
Laher said the case has taken a “tremendous toll” on the family. She has asked to be left alone as she said she had no part in this issue.
“The retelling of my words and assumptions being made are borderline defamatory and not in the least what was said and reported on.
“I have taken legal advice and I believe that I have said all that needs to be said. My official statement is that I have had no involvement in the company since late 2019. I have no idea where the brothers are nor do I know anything about the funds.
“I trust that both the brothers will come forward when the time is right and that they will provide the clarity that is required.”