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MTI does not know if its bitcoin is safe

Members will have to wait until Monday to find out.
Questions abound regarding the safety of the 17 000 bitcoin (worth around R5.6bn) reported to be under MTI's control. Image: Chris Ratcliffe, Bloomberg

Mirror Trading International (MTI) issued a ‘critical statement’ on Tuesday saying its missing CEO Johann Steynberg is alive and probably in Brazil, but that “management and leaders do not know if our bitcoin is safe”.

This statement comes just a day after Ulrich Roux & Associates withdrew as the company’s legal representatives, citing the disappearance of Steynberg and the fact that MTI members are not receiving their withdrawals as they have in the past.

The law firm confirmed that MTI management “have no way of contacting Steynberg”.

MTI is reported to have 280 000 members worldwide, and claimed to generate returns of up to 10% a month using a computer trading algorithm. The Financial Sector Conduct Authority (FSCA) has warned people to steer clear of the company and these claims of high returns.

The statement issued by MTI says the last time management heard from Steynberg was December 15. The same statement quotes Steynberg’s wife Nerina as saying he is heading back to SA on December 22, though MTI management has no knowledge of this.

The following extract is taken from the MTI statement:

  • Johann has not been truthful with management, leaders or members.
  • We as management and leaders do not know if our bitcoin is safe.
  • Management has contacted the server team; they are co-operating fully.
  • Management has been in contact with the broker, Trade300, but now believe this company is potentially owned and operated by Johann Steynberg. Communication with the broker has been sparse and unforthcoming.
  • The whole management team is co-operating with law enforcement and will continue to do so until this matter is resolved.
  • Nerina Steynberg (Johann’s wife) is yet to file a missing persons’ report.

The MTI statement goes on to say that things started unravelling quickly after the search and seizure raid by the FSCA in October, when the offices and homes of MTI executives were raided and several phones and electronic devices seized.

Read: MTI plans countersuit after FSCA raid on offices and homes of execs (Oct 28)

This created extra work, requiring the employment of 22 more technical staff by MTI.

“The system kept crashing and Johann told us that we had had numerous hacking attempts by a Russian syndicate. He sent us the details of these, some demanding extremely high ransoms.

‘Accounts may be compromised’

“On the day of the raid an independent contractor to MTI, a crypto expert was contacted, and asked to contact Camila (the senior account manager) at Trade300 [MTI’s unregulated broker] and tell her that our accounts may be compromised as a result of the raid and she must wait to hear from Johann before allowing any access to the broker account of MTI, which the contractor did immediately.

“The contractor had Trade300 contact details as we had asked him to help Johann to cryptographically prove MTI’s bitcoin balance to the FSCA and the public. Johann however did not supply the necessary details to him to complete this process.”

After the FSCA seizure of personal and company devices, Steynberg informed management that a security protocol was put in place with the broker to avoid members’ bitcoin being stolen. This included placing a limitation on withdrawals.

Management’s own bitcoin to be used

A week after the raid, Steynberg apparently requested fellow MTI executive Clynton Marks to send him 400 of his own bitcoin (worth around R137.8 million), which would supposedly be matched by 400 from Steynberg, so that backlogged withdrawal requests could be processed.

“Management has no proof that Johann did contribute the amount he stated. Clynton Marks had full confidence that he would get his bitcoin back,” according to the MTI statement.

On Monday November 30, Steynberg received an anonymous warning of an imminent raid by the FSCA, and decided he needed to “secure himself”.

On December 2, the management team found out that Johann was on his way to the airport, and received assurance that everything would be okay and that he needed to put measures in place so that if anything happened to him, his wife Nerina could run the company. He apparently flew via Doha to São Paulo in Brazil.

Management of operations

“For the weeks between the 3rd of December to the 14th of December Johann and Nerina continued to manage and run MTI’s technical department despite the challenges we faced: slow withdrawals, withdrawal reporting problems on the server side, a server that needed upgrades and better protection,” says MTI.

On December 12, Clynton Marks became concerned at the lack of contact with Steynberg when he failed to log onto the company computer system as expected.

The following day MTI management told Johann they refused to work with him any longer unless he appointed a proper second in charge who could run things in his absence. Steynberg wanted his wife to be that person, but eventually agreed to the appointment of an outside contractor.

Marks was later sent an instruction email on how to run the company.

MTI’s server team, unaware of the change in corporate reporting arrangements, was hesitant to accept orders from anyone other than Steynberg as it had been expressly instructed to only ever deal with him.

It then came to management’s attention that no server upgrade had been done as Steynberg had previously indicated.

Bitcoin needed to honour withdrawals not forthcoming

“To date of writing this statement the bitcoin requested to honour withdrawals has not been paid out from Trade300 and there is no valid reason for this.

“Over 34 emails have been sent to Trade300 in the last 6 days to resolve this matter,” says the MTI statement.

“Nerina [Steynberg] told us not to tell members about Johann being missing, and that she was sure he would turn up.”

Nerina was instructed to open a missing person’s case, but has failed to do so, according to the statement.

On December 16, MTI paid a private investigator to find Johann. “Nerina was not happy about that. The investigator interviewed Nerina, she refused to be recorded and was not forthcoming with information.

“The MTI Nedbank account, to which only Nerina and Johann has full access, has been suspended,” according to the statement.

“Our head of corporate services was locked out of the account and the logins have been changed.

“Nerina informed us only today [the statement is dated Tuesday, December 22] that Johann had booked a return flight and that his return date was the 22nd of December 2020.

“This was news to us; not once during the last week or after his departure was that ever communicated to us. We are convinced she has control over his funds and the team of management and leaders were promised she could run MTI in Johann’s absence.”

FSCA theory correct?

FSCA head of enforcement Brandon Topham says he is aware of the communique from MTI management, and it appears to confirm the FSCA’s theory that Steynberg was operating the engine of the company without allowing his lieutenants into its inner workings.

There are still confusing messages coming out about MTI and the safety of the 17 000 bitcoin (worth about R5.6 billion) reported to be under its control.

A Telegram message forwarded to Moneyweb says management now has control over the server and that the trading platform confirmed the balance, but members will have to wait until Monday to confirm that the bitcoin is safe.

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…and the guy could not produce his ‘reliable’ bitcoin ledger, but is able to produce a faceless email (anonymous) email that is full of threats, and innuendoes and conspiracies to seemingly justify his disappearance.
All the Regulator wants to see is the registration to conduct this kind of business, as well as the ledger to ensure that the ‘investors’ deposits and bitcoin holding is secure.
But no, Johann is nowhere to be found!
Is it Zig Ziggler who is reported to having once said: truly ‘a sucker is born every minute.’? ()
Why does the Regulator always wait until the population is fleeced before ‘thinking about acting’ and only to act when scammers have already bolted? Just thimmmk about it? We need a nibble and pro-active Regulator.

When it does act, that “population” attacks it, so let them suffer because they did not want to listen to the “you’re being fleeced” line.

I have to agree with you here. It is only when things go pear-shaped that fools suddenly want protection.

No law can protect people against their own stupidity. The FSCA regulates entities that are registered with it. It is up to the investor to ensure that his financial service provider is registered with the FSCA. In this case, the investors specifically elected to sidestep the FSCA. The investors even attacked the FSCA when it eventually stepped in to investigate their “profitable scheme”.

It will serve serious investors well to study all Ponzi-schemes. They share similar tactics and their business models always rely on gullible and ignorant investors. In short- read Moneyweb regularly and you won’t get scammed. Alternatively, study the course material for the FSCA RE exams.

But Moneyweb now has a dedicated section dealing with cryptocurrencies … work that one out.

beachcomber, nothing wrong (if you decide you understand crypto) with cryptocurrencies and buy and hold and sell or more actively trade them directly.

The problem comes in when you try to do fancy things with it, like “investing” with MTI so that their “trading bot” (if it even existed, I doubt) trades your crypto for massive profits.

I don’t understand crypto (anyone with the smarts can make a new one and it’s value is totally sentiment driven) myself so I won’t playing in the cryto space at all, people who think they are smart can.

This is exactly what happened. The MTI members went after the FSCA and said MTI doesn’t have to be registered with the FSCA. I think what people don’t realise is that the FSCA isn’t there to deliberately sink legitimate business and to deprive people of potential gains. The FSCA is there to protect people and if MTI was legit, they would’ve moved on after their investigation. I mean, would you let a surgeon who is not a member of the HPCSA perform surgery on you? Then why would someone invest with a company who is very open about the fact that they are not registered with the FSCA and doesn’t feel the need to do so?

I am fully confident that the email advising the mastermind to flee the country, replete with hilarious conspiracy theories and references to Freemasonry, is totally legit. There is just no way that Johann himself actually wrote the loony email….is there….?

By the way, I am just as confident that the billions were actually invested in Bitcoin, and I am sure that Cheri and the rest of the crime family didn’t splurge the ‘investors’ (LOL!) contributions on the high life, so beloved by our own politicians, such as expensive cars, mansions, ugly yet expensive shoes and the like. Here’s being positive and looking forward to the bitcoin being miraculously found on Monday.

Incitatus, it’s obvious that your comment is tongue-in-cheek. With all the ducking & diving that Steynberg has been doing and the fact that little wifey, Nerina had not yet filed a missing-peoples’ report, points to some hanky-panky going on. On top of that, Mrs Steynberg was p’d off when MTI paid a PI to find him confirms the fact. Umm, we will wait until Monday…

The FSCA warned people in August about MTI. Also, the Texas Securities Board and the Canadian equivalent ordered them to cease operations before that. Since then, the FSCA has actively been investigating them, conducted a raid and opened a criminal case against them. I think they’ve done very well to be honest. MTI claimed that the FSCA has no authority over them and this was parroted by their members. People knew what they were getting into and the regulator can only do so much. Anyone who still had money with MTI after July knew what they were getting into.

Almost the same end as Cheri Wards last scam. Poor, innocent Cheri again holding the can. Time to bring the handcuffs for the whole crew .

Agreed. These are not ANC political elite. These guys can be arrested and sent to jail.

So will Marks het his 400 Btc back?

Is there even proof he gave 400btc? Maybe they are just making that part up.

Never mind that part, the whole thing is made up, my $h!tometer was doing overtime here. This reads better than James Bond, leaders, who says that in a business. Also the part “Johann Steynberg is alive and probably in Brazil” and leaving the running of the business to your Wife.

These guys must be punished but in the meantime it does make for good reading only if you did not invest in this.

This is all so laughable. This exit strategy lacks real and authentic purpose and has bits of their previous BTC Global scam entwined in it. I say arrest the lot of them NOW before they skip the country.

https://twitter.com/JoeSteynSA/status/1340660341647224833?s=19

All the above people should be immediately arrested for aiding and abetting a known scam.

The mastermind of the Krion Ponzi scheme was jailed for 25 years in 2010.
This crowd will end up the same unless if they skip the country.

Noting will happen to them if they flee to Dubai, no extradition treaty exists with SA.

Dubai accepts anyone with bags of Gold, Dollars, Euros or any good hard currency.

I know Moneyweb are just doing their job and reporting things as the MTI statements comeout. Doesnt take a rocket scientist to read through their BS. It i was sub editor for Moneyweb my headline would read “MTI creates Stephen Kingesqe story for investors – await arrests”

Woe! This is the best piece of spinning I have yet come across. It certainly does not even pass a smell test!!

Robo trading bitcoin..haha. its all on a Excel spreadsheet. How BS still baffles brains.

How dare you call it a spreadsheet?! It’s a super-bot, a very sophisticated piece of astonishing genius, one that does better than any trading software that armies of developers working for multi-billion rand financial institutions can come up with. All hail the brilliance of Johann, our local Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos, all rolled in one person. I mean, 280,000 ‘investors’ can’t all be wrong….can they?

You copied this directly from the MTI Website didnt you
or
You are secretly working for Cheri Ward/Grey/Marks/Bananaboat and here to confirm everything

The interesting thing for me, is that over R5 billion has left this economy without any SARS approval or knowledge! No wonder our tax revenue is so short!!! I sincerely hope that SARS pay attention and pursue this on behalf of all our honest and exhausted tax payers!
This is yet another ponzi scheme where those greedy for an unrealistic return have been duped. May this be (yet another) lesson. If it appears too good to be true, it is!

Money got laundered out of the country,and every sucker that clicked Deposit did it themselves

Well i can tell them, it is all gone. It never was.

You cannot make this shyte up. It’s absolutely brilliant – I especially enjoyed the part about Marks receiving an e-mail with instructions on how to run the company. Can’t believe someone would actually take time to send an e-mail on how to run a ponzi scheme. Hope this gets published soon.

I am curious as to how they decided who will do the runner this time. Did they draw lots or just pulled a name out of a hat?

The way the rest of the “management” team all feign ignorance and almost indignation at the situation is comical to say the least.

It would be extremely funny if it wasn’t so tragic that people’s savings and future plans have disappeared like mist before the sun.

It does however highlight the levels of desperation people have reached to try and get ahead in life, where they are ready to give a total stranger their money to invest on a promise of a payday.

Let the greedy get what’s coming to them. It’s always a battle to warn “investors” about possible pitfalls. The “sales pitches” they listen to are overwhelming. And then, after something like this happens, it’s always a case of “we are the victims”. No, it’s a case of being greedy and not listening to sound advice.

With the returns on Bitcoin this year it was maybe possible to run a “Maddof” styled scheme that could last a few yrs.
Makes you question just how greedy/incompetent “management” actually is..?
Still violent Russian crypto hackers, fleeing to Brazil, E-mail instructions & missing persons reports….Deserves to be on Showmax next year.

Showmax or Sharemax?

”A man who is his own lawyer has a fool for a client”

Anonymous.

My views:

The MTI Management team has told us enough lies already to ice a wedding cake.

I think MTI’s poor sort of memory now only works backward – ”Bitcoins, what Bitcoins”?

One needs foreign exchange to buy a Bitcoin (17 k of them) – so roughly US$ 34 million were bought – which local Bank (Authorised Dealer) sold this foreign currency to MTI – was it Nedbank – where their bank account (now frozen) is held – and if so – Nedank should now urgently volunteer information as well.

My RE qualification and experience told me that they acted without a license and illegally, from the outset – so under the FAIS act, how should one look at the ”compliance function that was performed and or received/worked under – who would have been the compliance officer – methinks the attorneys should answer this compliance questions…

The psychology of these scams is fascinating. It is not just the ignorant and vulnerable who have been caught up in this scam but also some of the cleverest people, lawyers, doctors, other professionals and businessmen. Example; One of my best friends, a wonderful and very intelligent guy who managed to amass a surprising nest egg during his working life has lost over R1.2m! As an experienced retired businessman I could see through this scam as clearly as I could see through the windscreen of my car. I’ll anticipate your question ‘ why didn’t you warn him’. That’s the conundrum. I not only warned him, over the past few months I spent hours explaining to him all the reasons why this is a scam and why it will crash. I went to considerable effort to put all my points and concerns to him in an email. He had a response to every point I raised claiming that I was wrong or that I did not understand the process. He recruited all of his family and some of his friends to the extent of even opening an account for me and kick starting it with $200 !. I never even opened the account to look, I ‘begged’ him to withdraw his funds, including “mine”. Instead, he added more and reinvested his “profits”. Initially he “invested” R500k saying that he really did not care if he lost it because it is a small amount relative to his other investments. Last night he was not in a good mood and was scathing about the ‘MTI Critical Report’ that they sent to their “investors” explaining the debacle. Far from gloating I really feel for him. I simply cannot understand the psychology involved. What I do know is that people believe whatever they want to believe regardless of the facts, logic or common sense. Even worse, few people can explain why they believe what they believe. I learnt late in life, and to my amazement, that there is no connection between IQ, EQ, common sense, logic or practicality. Surely someone with a high IQ has the intelligence to also figure high in these areas. Not so at all! I cannot help comparing this to religious convictions (no I am not an atheist, just a thinker) In science, law, business, accounting, sport and every other endeavour absolute accuracy is required, objective logical accuracy that can be proven, if something does not add up or make sense then it is automatically rejected as being untrue. In religion what does not make sense is gospel. Maybe if we can figure that conundrum out we will understand the psychology of ponzi investments too. Yes, he is very religious.

Thank you for sharing. I enjoyed reading your comment. It’s always disappointing when someone you think the world of, does something really dumb.

Agreed these schemes affect people you think would never fall for it. They happen way more than we all think, in previous blogs on other scams I have mentioned that these schemes destroy lives in ways we could only imagine and the funny thing is most keep quiet about it probably through embarrassment after they realise what has actually happened.

There are quite a few psychological reasons as to why seemingly intelligent people fall for these. One to mention is FOMO (maybe greed). However in confirmation of above I find that once the STOOORIE is set in the “investors” mind you will not change it.

That is why the authorities should close these schemes down asap and not take too long with debates.

The penalties should be elevated to discourage anyone contemplating it.

It is like seizing drugs off the streets and locking up the traders.

Agree, very sad & you tried your very best to warn your friend.

Point is, you cannot convince the brainwashed…..and when brainwashed like a cult, it does not matter what profession you’re in.

And greed.

Perhaps, the best thing is “with age comes wisdom.”

Foshan, the way I see it, your friend did get value for money, even though he has lost his money. The best trader of all time, Ed Seykota, says that every trader gets what he wants. Some want excitement and they get it. Others want security and they get it. Some want a return on capital as well as a return of capital and they get it.

Your friend did not invest in a Ponzi-scheme, he bought excitement, and he got it. He is a clever man because an extramarital affair would have been much more costly. He bought the cheapest excitement he could find. His actions were totally rational and reasonable. He tried to save you from seeking excitement in a costly extramarital affair when he bought you some shares in the Ponzi-scheme. You owe him a world of gratitude. He is a true friend. Give him a hug after you have hugged your beautiful and precious wife.

Hi Sensei, appreciate your comments as always. Certainly a refreshingly different view of the situation. Myopic, cryptic, knee jerk comments are so tiring.

Particularly tiring at this time of the year are the wonderful heart warming Xmas messages. Tiring because 99% of the greetings are not personal – no input or heartfelt thoughts whatsoever from the sender, just a copy and paste and the obligatory task is done.

So, my best wishes to you and yours for the season and that 2021 will be good for you.

I see that SA does not have a finalised extradition treaty with Brazil. The wonderful thing about BC is that you can trade it from anywhere in the world!

Oh dear … rinse and repeat.

Until “Monday” of WHICH MONTH??

Btw, let’s not not refer to “members” or “investors” when it comes to schemes like these. Best choice of word would be….speculators!

Virtually Yours,
Peter Pyramid

Shame,Where’s Eric Venter and the other MTI defenders. It’s awesomely/awfully boring without them blaring something about “Unregulated” and “Critical thinking”

yup, I remember him & few others.
Some claimed they’ve “done their research” to ensure it’s legit 😉

MTI’s mythical trading bot must be suffering from professional burnout 😉

This is proof that crypto bots also need to rest, right?

(In know, to speculators in such schemes, this comment is not funny. But don’t approach the FSCA for help, rather contact the Bitcoin Call Centre……)

Your virtual friend,

I can say with confidence, MTI’s bitcoin wallets are totally safe:

..it’s safely under the control of this ponzi scheme’s founders, to whom members gave explicit authority to hand over control of their individual BTC-wallets.

Johann S, Cheri Marks (néé Ward), husband Clynton, Liz M have your wallets under perfect control.

In an actual unregulated country,like whatever private island state they purchased to make their own laws 😀

And BOOM!!!….it is NOW ‘that’ MONDAY.

MTI members are waiting to find out……

(I guess many will be feverishly pressing the on-screen ‘withdrawal’ option 😉 But WHY would you want to withdraw, since that juicy 10+% monthly returns looks so impressive on their ‘demo’ accounts…)

MTI members handed over control of their BTC-wallets to MTI.
I mean, would you hand over your Online Banking’s login details to someone working at your bank? (..so that person can try to earn a better return for you).

Yes, it’s ludicrous. But not for the brainwashed, greedy MTI members hoping for ‘passive income’ BS.

End of comments.

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