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The Cajee brothers, Ameer and Raees, are at the center of a shocking disappearance of bitcoin involving the South Africa based crypto investment firm they founded, AfriCrypt. As questions swirl the brothers insist they are innocent. So what’s the truth?
A South African lawyer, John Oosthuizen, a founding partner and managing director of Christophers and Oosthuizen Inc, Johannesburg, speaking on their behalf to the BBC, painted a picture Friday of a pair of young men in over their heads, under whose stewardship hackers stole the money of people who had trusted the Cajee brothers, and who fled when they became aware of that theft. He said they “categorically deny” that they have stolen the funds.
Raees Cajee is 21 years old, Ameer is 19. They have “very little life experience,” as Oosthuizen puts it.
The Hanekom Charges
It was another South African law firm, Hanekom Attorneys, that made the complaint, back in April, that the Cajee brothers had taken off with 69,000 bitcoin, at a time (in April) when a cache of that size was worth more than R50 billion, and roughly $3.6 billion. Hanekom, which specializes in cryptocurrency litigation, complained on behalf of a group of investors.
Still in April, a South African judge ruled in favor of a separate group of 20 investors, granting a provisional liquidation order. The Cajee brothers were given until July 19 to argue that their assets should not be liquidated.
Hanekom claims that the $3.6 billion has been “dissipated in its entirety.” The firm also denies the notion that this dissipation can properly be blamed on a hack. Part of the reason for questions is employees at the firm lost access to back-end platforms a week before the alleged hack.
Oosthuizen denies the reliability of Hanekom-based accounts of the amount of money, or of cryptocurrency, involved. He has not given an alternative figure, but he has pointed to media reports that the 69,000 bitcoin claim is an overstatement.
A Exclusive Devotion
AfriCrypt, founded in 2019, described itself as “an investment firm exclusively focused on crypto-currency and blockchain technology.” By this year it was claiming to be “one of Africa’s largest and most successful AI trading companies.”
On April 13, 2021, though, Ameer Cajee as chief operating officer wrote to AfriCrypt clients saying that the firm had halted operations because of the hack. “Our system, client accounts, client wallets and nodes were all compromised,” he said. The COO asked investors not to pursue legal remedies, because that would “delay the recovery process” then allegedly underway.
A cousin of the Cajee brothers, Zakira Laher, herself a former AfriCrypt director, issued a statement of her own last week. She said the family lost track of the Cajee brothers in May. They are outside of the country. Where? Laher says she does not know, but she knows that they are in a country where WhatsApp is banned.
That is a telling clue, if true. WhatsApp, the messaging and VoIP app owned by Facebook Inc., is banned in China, Iran, Turkey, Brazil, Uganda, and in the United Arab Emirates. A ban is apparently under consideration in India.
The Seed Money Issue
Other new information has been scarce. One item does stand out: Laher has indicated a possible source for AfriCrypt’s seed money. Hanekom has said that the Cajee brothers had “a lot of money before the business started two years ago.” The implied question: where did they get it?
Laher says that Raees Cajee was a “mathematical whiz” and that this talent manifested itself in early success as a bitcoin miner. So it is at least possible that mining success both gave the brothers both the ambition, and the financial ability, to branch out into the creation of the AfriCrypt platform.
Without new information very little can be said with assurance.