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Zakira Laher, the cousin of the Cajee brothers, claimed that she doesn’t know where her cousins are and that their bitcoin heist affected the family tremendously. Laher, who is a former AfriCrypt director, has been put in the middle of what is being deemed the biggest cryptocurrency theft ever committed.
In a statement to Business Insider South Africa, Zakira Laher explained that the Cajee brothers are missing, and not even the family knows where they are. “We really don’t know,” she said, though she claimed there are clues as to Ameer and Raees’s whereabouts. Still, nothing is concrete.
The two brothers left South Africa, vanishing from their successful crypto company, AfriCrypt, along with $3.6 billion in bitcoin, or R50 billion (South Africa’s currency). Their whereabouts are unknown, though Zakira Laher claims that they are hiding somewhere where WhatsApp, a cross-platform centralized messaging service, is banned. The clues have begun to add up, but the family still has no idea where they went, and investors are becoming restless.
According to the statement, the family lost contact with Ameer Cajee and Raees Cajee over a month ago, and they are sure the Cajee brothers have fled the country. Third-party informants told the family that the brothers are in danger, but the threat is currently unclear. Some believe the threat lies with the disgruntled investors, who lost millions of dollars (and billions in potential income) in what is said to be an exit scheme.
“We don’t know,” Zakira Laher told Business Insider South Africa. She first learned of AfriCrypt’s troubles when her father-in-law received notice that AfriCrypt’s investments would be liquidated since he was an initial investor with the company. The family then noticed the Cajee brothers making headlines Wednesday, for supposedly stealing $3.6 billion in bitcoin.
Zakira Laher’s History With AfriCrypt
Laher is left behind to field questions and deal with angry investors who demand answers. She also admitted that she fears for her family’s safety, as well as the safety of her one-week-old baby. Though she is still wrapping her head around what happened, Laher has been complying with authorities and giving what answers she has, having worked as a director for the company.
Zakira Laher was given her director role at the startup fairly early on. Though excited for the leadership role, Laher claimed she accepted the position to boost AfriCrypt’s empowerment credentials, as an Indian female. She was in charge of drafting contracts for the startup and acted as an assistant to her cousins, one of which she called a “mathematical whizz.” Her work was never compensated, though, and her promised wages and the crypto wallet her cousins claimed they founded in her name are nowhere to be found.
Laher left the company in October 2020, frustrated that she hadn’t seen a cent from her hard work, though she did admit that Ameer and Raees took her out for lunch a few times. At around the same time as Laher’s resignation from Africrypt, investors began to see through the cracks in the young entrepreneurs’ grand plan.
The Great Bitcoin Heist – $3.6 Billion In Bitcoin Gone
In November, crypto investors began mysteriously losing funds, and when asked to comment, the company delivered no answers. Then, on April 13, a supposed hack attacked the company, and an email from Ameer Cajee claimed that “client wallets and nodes were all compromised.” No further details were revealed. The email pleaded with investors not to contact authorities, claiming that an investigation would slow down the process of getting the money back.
Around the same time, the Cajee brothers stopped communicating with their extended family, and have since vanished. Now investors are furious and are demanding liquidation of the 69,000 bitcoins AfriCrypt owns, though the legal fight will be a long battle.
Darren Hanekom, a specialist cryptocurrency regulatory compliance lawyer, has taken the case. Hanekom is working to recover the missing bitcoin for his clients, and is attempting to trace the bitcoin in what he described as a “complex arrangement, involving elements suggestive of money laundering.”
The brothers had “a lot of money before the business started two years ago,” Hanekom claimed, and that the source of that funding is unknown. Though the questions are far more abundant than answers, Zakira Laher offered some possible suggestions. Laher confirmed that the Cajee brothers lived a lavish lifestyle, especially for those working for a startup. She did say that some of that wealth could be attributed to Raees Cajee mining bitcoin in its early days, which would be significant wealth if sold in recent months.
Though Hanekom and Laher believe clues point toward a more sinister scheme behind the scenes, the extended family also believes that the April hack might not have been a lie. In realizing that $3.6 billion in bitcoin was stolen and could not be returned, the Cajee brothers might have fled the country to where they would be safe.
Zakira Laher, however, is frustrated about where that leaves her. “I’m terrified for my life, I don’t have R50 billion to run to the UK or Dubai or China or wherever they are in the world,” she admitted.
AfriCrypt’s website is shut down and investors are pushing legal actions to liquidate their funds. Large crypto exchanges have been notified, and are on the lookout for suspicious transactions.