MTI members divided on ‘scam’


Dozens of local residents in the Helderberg fear the worst following revelations that Johann Steynberg, CEO of the alleged online Bitcoin scam platform Mirror Trading International (MTI), has skipped the country.

The MTI satellite office in Main Road, Strand, is closed following a jubilant official opening last year. But some members remain adamant that Steynberg will again appear and that “the truth will be revealed”. They are ambitiously hopeful that their money remains safe and will be returned.

A statement released by MTI management alleges that Steynberg, who is no longer communicating with fellow executives, blocked his colleagues from accessing the company’s funds.

Members bought into MTI with a minimum of $100 worth of Bitcoin or a minimum of $200 if they wanted to qualify for bonuses under the company’s multilevel marketing system.

The company and its leadership claimed that MTI had a magical automated trading programme – a “bot” powered by artificial intelligence – that could yield growth of 0,5% to 1,5% per day.

Last August, the Financial Services Conduct Authority of South Africa (FSCA) said that it was investigating MTI and warned investors to withdraw their funds.

Late last year the scheme collapsed, as warned, with the MTI leadership blaming CEO Steynberg, who apparently disappeared in December.

A group of members acted quickly and instituted liquidation proceedings against MTI within days of the announcement that Steynberg was missing. The Western Cape High Court granted a provisional liquidation on Tuesday 29 December.

An exposé on MNet’s Carte Blanche on Sunday evening (17 January) also alleged that MTI was running like a ponzi-type scheme and there were many indications that could be seen as red flags.

Elton Gordon, a Somerset West local who invested in MTI and claims to have received good payouts in the beginning, said it was “beyond him” to accept that Steynberg had duped all of them.

“I spoke to him personally just days before his disappearance. He spoke confidently of all the plans he has for the future and each step that he wanted to reach; he did not sound like a man on his way out. I think there’s more to this,” said Gordon, stopping short of speculation that Steynberg had fled because he feared for his life.

“In the beginning, I was concerned but after we started to receive payouts I was more relaxed. I can still see the Bitcoin growing, but it’s also true that I can’t withdraw until Steynberg releases it. I believe this will happen soon. It’s a big thing for me to accept that this was a scam.”

Other local members feel the same, clinging to an ounce of hope that perhaps things will turn around again.

Another member, who spoke to DistrictMail on condition of anonymity, said that he felt “burnt” and is resigned to the fact that he will not see his money again. “My family members and I lost a lot of money – a lot more than we can afford. I cannot get hold of anyone in management to explain exactly what is happening.”

The member said he will lay charges against Steynberg only once he reappears – if he ever does.

Gerald Lassen, a Durbanville local who signed up 30 000 members including many in the Helderberg and headed up the Strand satellite office, said he “prays everyday” for the return of Steynberg. He still believes MTI is a legitimate business.

“I’m getting calls daily from members who want answers, but only Steynberg can give answers. I still believe in him and I trust he will explain it all. Until then, I have no doubts.”

Lassen also decried all the negative media coverage on MTI, alleging that “none of it is true”.

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