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News Report

CEO of Crypto-Ponzi Scheme Mirror Trading International Arrested In Brazil

2 mins
Updated by Ryan James

In Brief

  • Johann Steynberg, CEO and owner of Mirror Trading International, has been arrested in Brazil.
  • Steynberg’s company was responsible for a Ponzi-like scheme that prevented people from withdrawing their investment capital.
  • MTI had folded following Steynberg’s flight to Brazil.
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Nowhere to hide for Johann Steynberg as his identity is unmasked in Brazilian province, and he is now in police custody for cheating thousands of investors in South Africa and abroad.

Military police and the Rapid Ostensive Intervention Group (Giro) in the capital city of the province of Goiás in Brazil have apprehended the CEO and owner of Mirror Trading International. Brandon Topham, head of enforcement at South Africa’s financial watchdog, the Financial Sector Conduct Authority, was notified of the arrest from South Africa’s elite policing unit, The Hawks.

Steynberg was a wanted man by Interpol and the FBI before the arrest. Law enforcement in Brazil was notified of a suspect using fake documents but did not approach him immediately. After that, they established Steynberg’s identity as a wanted man in South Africa for fraud and approached him. He then presented fake documents, but the police already knew his true identity by this time. On Dec. 29, he was arrested and taken to the Federal Police’s superintendence in Goiás.

“The criminal was presented to the PF Superintendence to fulfill the international arrest warrant and fine for the crime of using a false document,” says a statement issued by Goiás military police.

Governor of the Goiás province said, “We do not just play with thieves in flip-flops. A high-end criminal doesn’t rise in the State of Goiás. He will get arrested regardless of his status. Our troops have complete freedom to act.” 

The military police has reported that they seized notebooks, credit cards, and fraudulent identities.

International reach of MTI

The Mirror Trading International Scam was the largest crypto scam of 2020, according to Chainalysis. Promises of monthly returns of up to 10% saw many investors part with the requisite bitcoin deposit. Thousands of clients were from North America, Canada, Namibia, and other regions were affected. It is estimated that more than 29000 BTC passed through Steynberg’s company’s hands. When the company began preventing customers from withdrawing their initial deposit and Steynberg vanished, MTI folded. A paper trail pointed to Steynberg’s destination in Brazil.

Liquidation of MTI’s assets

The Financial Sector Conduct Authority opened a criminal case against Steynberg’s company in 2020 and recommended that customers withdraw their money. In August 2021, creditors (those who put in more than they got out) were informed that outstanding funds would be paid through liquidators and international law enforcement. Multiple agencies, including the FBI, oversaw this. Debtors (those who made money) were informed that they might have to pay back the money.

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