South Africa investigates $80 million bitcoin scam

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JOHANNESBURG – South African authorities are investigating an alleged cryptocurrency scam that defrauded investors of 1 billion rand ($80 million) with promises of huge returns that never materialised, police said on Friday.

The fraud investigation involves a company named BTC Global, which told clients they would earn 2 percent per day, 14 percent a week and 50 percent in a month, the police said.

A search for the company on the internet showed its services had been suspended.

The website lists Steven Twain as the “primary trader”. A request for comment by Reuters sent to an email address listed on the website as belonging to Twain received no response.

“Members of the public are believed to have been targeted as part of the scam and encouraged by agents of BTC Global,” the police said in a statement.

“Some of the investors got paid in terms of the agreement. However, the payments suddenly stopped.”

Local technology news website mybroadband.co.za had reported in March that more than $50 million was lost by investors in BTC Global.

“This may prove to be the tip of the iceberg with potentially thousands more yet to discover they’ve lost money,” police investigator Yolisa Matakata said.

The investigation follows a case this week where kidnappers demanded a ransom in bitcoin of nearly $120,000 to release a South African teenage boy.

On Thursday South Africa’s central bank said it was in the process of determining whether cryptocurrencies complied with its financial surveillance and exchange control regulations.

($1 = 12.4837 rand)

Reporting by Mfuneko Toyana; Editing by Joe Brock/Keith Weir

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Godwin Okafor is a financial journalist, Internet Social Entrepreneur and the Founder Naija247news Media Ltd He has over 16 experiences in journalism, which cuts across traditional and digital media. He started his journalism career in Business Day, Where he was a senior editorial graphic artist, before he left to start Naija247news, An Online Financial Newspaper in 2010. He has won series of awards and he is the chairman of Emmerich Resources Limited, the publisher of Naija247news.com and also sits on the board of Students In Business Awards, (SIBA).

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