Just a day after confirmation that Mirror Trading International’s (MTI) CEO Johann Steynberg had gone AWOL, two applications were filed in the Cape High Court for the liquidation of the company.
Both cases were brought by MTI investors who have been trying to withdraw funds from the bitcoin investment scheme that promised returns of up to 10% a month.
The Financial Sector Conduct Authority (FSCA) issued a statement several months ago advising the public to steer clear of MTI and ask for their money back on the grounds that it was operating without a financial services provider licence and was making extravagant claims.
Rapid growth in membership
Despite the adverse publicity and FSCA warnings, the number of MTI members grew from about 80 000 to a reported 280 000 in the last five months.
Get-rich-quick scheme pulls a crowd, despite regulators calling time-out (Aug 28)
One of the applications was brought by MTI investor Anton Lee and is likely to be heard on an urgent basis on Thursday (December 24).
Another application for MTI’s winding up, also before the Cape High Court, was brought by Steven Watkins who is owed R150 000 by MTI and has been unable to withdraw funds from his MTI account since December 21.
Watkins says he purchased bitcoin through the Luno crypto exchange in September and transferred it to MTI’s ‘pool account’ on November 30.
It was at this point that MTI’s computerised ‘bot’ purportedly began trading his funds. With the Christmas period approaching, Watkins decided to withdraw his funds and logged a request on MTI’s system on December 21.
“I became rather concerned about [MTI’s] apparent inability to process my withdrawal requests and began to make enquiries amongst other members that I know. These members have informed me that they are experiencing similar difficulties withdrawing their funds from [MTI],” reads Watkins’s founding affidavit.
He goes on to say that matters came to a head this week when MTI’s legal representative, Ulrich Roux & Associates, notified MTI investors that it had withdrawn as the company’s legal counsel due to the fact that Steynberg was uncontactable, and members were unable to withdraw funds as was previously the case.
It previously took just two days to process withdrawals, though at least one member with relatively large amounts of bitcoin told Moneyweb he has been unable to withdraw funds for months.
MTI ‘clearly unable to pay claims’
Both Lee and Watkins argue that their requests for withdrawal have gone unanswered and that MTI is therefore clearly unable to pay their claims, or the claims of other investors, and that it is just and equitable to wind up the company.
“Indeed, matters have deteriorated to the point where its sole director and self-styled CEO [Steynberg] appears to have absconded abroad and rendered himself uncontactable, whilst its erstwhile attorneys have withdrawn as such and let investors/members know that they are now assisting the FSCA in its investigations into [MTI’s] affairs,” says Watkins’s affidavit.
Jan Luitingh of Luitingh & Associates Attorneys told Moneyweb he has created a web page for other members to signal their interest in joining the Watkins liquidation case.
Those who want to sign up can do so here.
The Watkins affidavit says Steynberg is MTI’s sole director, and that MTI – while purporting to be a bitcoin trading platform and a way to earn passive income from cryptocurrencies – is “nothing but an illegal investment or ‘pyramid’ scheme”.
In his affidavit Watkins explains the referral marketing system and the three types of commissions or bonuses that can be earned from introducing new members.
The Watkins case was postponed today (Thursday December 24) until Tuesday December 29 to allow more time for other creditors to join the proceedings.
The story will be updated as more news becomes available.