Ameer and Raees Cajee, a pair of South African brothers who built one of Africa’s largest cryptocurrency exchanges before seemingly absconding with nearly $4 billion in customer deposits still can’t be located, yet a lawyer who claims to represent them says they “categorically deny” stealing the coins, even though nobody – not even their family members – appears to know where they are.
A “to let” sign can be seen in the storefront office in Johannesburg’s upmarket Rosebank business hub where Africrypt’s offices were once situated.
The lawyer who claims to be representing the brothers told the BBC that theey stand by their claims that the exchange was “hacked”, which they first revealed to some clients and employees back in April. When asked why the brothers urged clients not to go to the police, the lawyer said the two young men are only 18 and 20, and don’t have a lot of life experience.
Lawyer John Oosthuizen, who represents Raees and Ameer Cajee, told the BBC the brothers “categorically denied” they had been involved in a “heist” or had absconded with funds.
“There is no foundation to the accusation and there’s no merit to those accusations,” he said.
“They maintain that it was a hack, and they were fleeced of these assets,” he added.
Asked by the BBC if the brothers had contacted the police after the alleged hack, Mr Oosthuizen said: “No.”
But he added that they were young men aged 18 and 20 with “very little life experience”.
When pressed, the lawyer said he hadn’t heard from the brothers in weeks, and didn’t know their whereabouts. Though he claimed the brothers had received “death threats” and suggested that they were in hiding. He also said Africrypt was working to prepare a dossier to demonstrate to the authorities that Africrypt had been hacked and the brothers had been the victim of theft.
Their lawyer also said the brothers would cooperate if contacted by investigators, though he said they hadn’t yet been contacted (perhaps because nobody, not even the police, it seems, knows where they are).
Attorney Gerhard Botha, who’s working on the firm’s liquidation case and representing many of the Africrypt clients who were fleeced out of their money, said some of his clients last reported contact with the brothers in May.
The brothers’ cousin, Zakira Laher, told Bloomberg that she hasn’t spoke to either of them since April, when Africrypt closed down following the brothers’ revelation of the alleged hack that had drained its crypto. While the 31-year-old Laher said she briefly worked for the brothers, her role was mostly providing legal advice and doing some administrative work. She did mention that the brothers preferred a “nice lifestyle” filled with luxury cars and traveling – habits acquired following their early success with crypto.
The Cajee brothers have until July 19 to reply to proceedings at the Johannesburg High Court. According to BBG, Africrypt investor marketing materials paint Raees Cajee, the younger brother, as a prodigy. He was first introduced to Bitcoin in 2009 and started a business when he was 13 years old, it said. Africrypt invested capital “in a variety of crypto currencies which the parties have verbally discussed and understood.” In a statement from one investor, they claimed that the brothers promised a five-fold return to its investors.
The FCA, the UK’s main market regulator, said it’s hands are tied, and it has no jurisdiction to investigate the collapse of Africrypt.