Two brothers disappear in South Africa, taking $3.6bn worth of bitcoins with them

The two founders of cryptocurrency investment platform Africrypt have disappeared in South Africa along with 69,000 bitcoins worth $3.6 billion, Bloomberg reported on Wednesday, 23 June.

The disappearance of the founding brothers was reported to the elite National Police Hawks unit by a Cape Town-based law firm hired by the investors. Another company has taken over the liquidation of Africrypt, the agency specified.

In April, Africrypt’s chief operating officer Amir Kaji, the elder of the brothers, told customers that the company was a victim of hacking. He asked them not to report the incident to lawyers and authorities as it would slow down the recovery of missing funds. It was also noted at the time that bitcoin had soared to a record high.

Some investors were sceptical and hired law firm Hanekom Attorneys. The organisation told Bloomberg that it was suspicious of Africrypt’s CEO’s request from the start.

“Africrypt employees lost access to the software and hardware platform (back-end) seven days before the alleged attack,” Hanekom Attorneys said.

The company has been unable to locate the brothers. The investigation revealed that Africrypt’s pooled funds were transferred from its South African accounts and customer wallets, and the coins passed through large mining pools, making the cryptocurrency virtually untraceable.

The South African Financial Services Authority is also looking into what happened to Africrypt , but is prohibited from conducting a formal investigation because crypto-assets are not legally considered financial products in the country, said Brandon Topham, head of law enforcement.

Amir Kaji along with his brother Rais launched Africrypt in 2019. At the cryptocurrency’s peak in April, the missing bitcoins were valued at more than $4 billion, which the agency described as the largest dollar amount of cryptocurrency fraud.

On 22 June, Izvestia TV channel reported that bitcoin had fallen by almost 10% since Friday. On June 21, bitcoin closed below $33,000 apiece for the first time since January this year. On Tuesday, the digital currency continued on a downward trend. Experts attribute the decline in the value of cryptocurrencies to the actions of the Chinese authorities, which at all levels make mining – mining, as well as any operations with cryptocurrencies.