The Polokwane High Court placed Mirror Trading International CEO Johann Steynberg and his wife Nerina in provisional sequestration last week.
The application was brought by the five joint provisional liquidators on MTI. The provisional sequestration order was served on the Steynbergs’ residential address at Eagle Crest in Polokwane, Limpopo Province.
Where is Steynberg?
Johann Steynberg, missing since December last year when MTI investors’ attempts to withdraw funds went unanswered, is believed to be hiding out in Brazil or Panama.
The Steynbergs, or any other interested party, have until the return date of July 20, 2021, to give reasons why final sequestration should not be granted on that date. A copy of the court order was also delivered to the South African Revenue Services.
MTI was placed in provisional liquidation in December last year when investors tried without success to withdraw funds from the scheme. Chainalysis declared MTI the world’s biggest scam of 2020. MTI will be back in court next month as certain investors try to save it from final liquidation and rather put it under business rescue or restructure its debts in terms of a Section 155 compromise under the Companies Act.
Neither the joint provisional liquidators nor the Financial Sector Conduct Authority (FSCA) sees much chance of the company being saved from liquidation.
Riddled with red flags
MTI was riddled with red flags from the get-go. Johann Steynberg was listed as the sole director and CEO.
Yet despite the reported size of investments flowing into MTI (23 000 bitcoin, which is currently worth about R18.4 billion), there were no published annual financial results as required by the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission (CIPC), no board, and no governance structures in place.
The company offered returns of up to 10% a month. Investors had to ship bitcoin to MTI, which placed the company’s financial flows beyond the control of the banking sector. The promised returns would then be generated by a computerised algorithm, but when the FSCA investigated this, it could not find any evidence of it.
The real success of MTI was its use of multi-level marketing to attract new customers.
Public was warned
Though the FSCA warned the public to get their money out of MTI in August last year, this appeared to have little effect on the rate of new investor sign-up. That was until it all came crashing down in December last year.
Last month MTI liquidators managed to sell roughly R1.1 billion in bitcoin that it had been able to recover.
It is as yet unknown how much will be recovered from the estate of Johann and Nerina Steynberg. The liquidators say they have a better understanding of where some of the MTI assets may be stashed, following a Section 417/418 inquiry in terms of the Companies Act to help track down and recover assets in insolvent companies.
Liquidators have urged MTI members to lodge their claims at www.investrust.co.za