Ina Opperman
Business Journalist
5 minute read
10 Jan 2022
6:07 pm

Victims of MTI Bitcoin scam anxiously waiting for Steynberg’s extradition

Ina Opperman

Johann Steynberg’s close associate Cheri Marks is one of the people who cannot wait to face him after the police caught him in Brazil.

Image: iStock

Staff and victims of Mirror Trading International (MTI) cannot wait for Johann Steynberg’s extradition, after he was caught in Brazil when someone tipped off police in the southern state of Goiás about his location at the end of December.

Steynberg’s victims are now eagerly waiting to hear when he will be extradited to South Africa, as they all have a bone to pick with him.

He disappeared in December 2020 when he left the country for Sao Paolo in Brazil, ostensibly to visit a plantation he had bought in Panama.

ALSO READ: MTI Bitcoin scam kingpin now being hunted by the FBI

How the Bitcoin scammer was caught

According to a statement issued by the state of Goiás, Lieutenant Colonel Raimundo Coelho Pinto Júnior, commander of the Military Police’s Rapid Ostensive Intervention Group (Giro), said the group received reports about a South African who “committed crimes against the international financial system” hiding in the southern region of Goiânia, in the Alto da Glória sector.

After keeping Steynberg under surveillance for a month, the Giro identified him. When the Giro approached him, Steynberg presented false identity documents, but he was arrested.

“The Federal Police and Interpol were already aware of the surveillance and we handed Steynberg over to them for the fulfilment of the international arrest warrant, and a fine for the crime of using a false document,“ Pinto said.

ALSO READ: This is what the MTI liquidators have found so far

Cheri Marks’ message for Steynberg about MTI

While many victims applauded his arrest on social media, Cheri Marks, who handled MTI’s communications and was a close associate of Steynberg’s, wrote on Facebook: “Thrilled. The truth will always win. It may take time but in the end nothing stays in the dark.”

Cheri and Clynton Marks, former close associates of Johann Steynberg. Image: Facebook

Later she added that “This was not him ‘fearing for his life’ as he told us. He purposefully left us knowing EXACTLY what he was doing. KNOWING people would point at us.  KNOWING what he was doing.

Then he starts a new life with a new girlfriend, a jet, imported cars… I’m furious. Guilty as sin. Took me a while to process but facts don’t lie. He controlled every material aspect of the company and put us purposefully in the limelight so that his soft nature and easy tears could easily be loved next to my abrasive and straight forward ways.

The media perpetuated this narrative shamelessly without regard and in conjunction with hateful people with an axe to grind. Some of our closest friends bought into this…

We spent the year trying to defend members, helping them put in claims and having very little regard for ourselves as we fought an obviously corrupt liquidation process. Despite this no one helped us in this process, in fact some close to Johann tried their best to hinder our endeavours!

Now Johann will be detained. Now he’ll be forced to say how he tried to get rid of Clynton and I so that he could run MTI 2.0 with his “friends”. What was uncovered this year has been astounding and I find myself struggling to accept what I’m reading based on the person I thought I knew and trusted. The information has been verified. Facts are facts.

Shucks I can believe we were picked to take the fall from day one. Hind sight is 20/20 after all and his loyalty was to all the bitcoin he controlled. He had to get that last sting in… in a voice note ask Clynton for bitcoin to pay members explaining the security issues with a brokerage he owned (we didn’t know) and this was the quick way to cripple us financially so we couldn’t fight back.

My question that I simply cannot answer is how on earth can Johann do this to his daughter? I am sick with disgust. I am struggling to understand how you steal from thousands, I am struggling to understand how you purposefully did this to a team that was loyal to the end but I cannot ever understand how you do this to your child and wife.

We will get answers. I’m sure a couple people are very nervous. Good. Be nervous. This is not going away.

Welcome home soon Johann. Cannot wait to face you.”

ALSO READ: Bitcoin scammers Mirror Trading International face R100 million fine

Marks questioned FSCA and liquidation

Marks and her husband Clynton filed arguments to question the FSCA’s procedure and the implications of the liquidation order, after the court granted the final liquidation order against MTI. Clynton Marks argues that the application to declare MTI an illegal scheme, as well as the liquidation order, is merely aimed at getting investors’ money into the hands of the state.

However, the joint liquidators say these assumptions are wrong. “In terms of the provisions of the Insolvency Act, the liquidators will only be entitled to recover payments made to investors which were not legally owed to them.

“If an investment scheme is illegal, profits and referral commissions were not legally owed to the recipients and can be recovered by the liquidators for the benefit of those who actually lost their capital invested in the unlawful scheme.”

ALSO READ: MTI Bitcoin ‘trading’ scheme leads to wine, antidepressants and tears

This is how Steynberg started MTI

Steynberg started MTI in April 2019 as an automated Bitcoin trading platform.

Investors had to deposit a prescribed minimum amount of Bitcoin in MTI’s wallet and MTI said that it would grow these ‘investments’ by between 0.5% and 1.5% per day using a “trading Bot” that uses software based on artificial intelligence.

Investors were promised even bigger returns if they referred other ‘investors’ to MTI. Thousands of people were then talked into “investing” in MTI, with many of them even selling their houses and taking early retirement to “invest”.

The scheme started to collapse when the FSCA started investigatingit, and the group Anonymous ZA hacked MTI. Anonymous disclosed data that showed MTI is a multifaceted marketing scheme and would not be able to keep its promises of fantastic returns to its investors.

MTI just did not have enough Bitcoin to repay its initial Bitcoin investments as well as the promised growth. The company was provisionally liquidated at the end of 2020 and finally liquidated on 30 June 2021.

The liquidators said last year that although there was a paper trail, such as an airplane ticket to Brazil, they could find no video or photo confirmation that proved he had left the country.