Brazilian Judge Dismisses Bitcoin Scam Mastermind’s Attempt to Block His Extradition to South Africa

A Brazilian judge has ruled that the CEO of Mirror Trading International should remain in precautionary detention as authorities in South Africa have already furnished their Brazilian counterparts with the documentation that is required for extradition purposes. The judge also rejected Johann Steynberg’s attempts to use his Brazilian family as the basis for seeking an end to his precautionary detention.

Documentation for Steynberg’s Formal Extradition

A Brazilian judge recently dismissed an application by Johann Steynberg — the mastermind behind Mirror Trading International (MTI), one of South Africa’s biggest cryptocurrency scams — to have his precautionary detention revoked. In his application, the MTI chief executive had reportedly argued that since no formal extradition request had been made the court should at least place him under house arrest.

Steynberg also argued that when he left South Africa in December 2020, there was no outstanding warrant for his arrest and that the case itself failed to meet certain requirements which would make extradition possible. Also, as stated in the document released by the Brazilian judiciary, Steynberg had raised the point that he had since started a family in Brazil, hence placing him under house arrest would suffice.

However, in his ruling, Brazilian supreme court judge Andre Mendonça rejected arguments brought forward by Steynberg. The judge revealed that South African authorities had in fact “presented documentation aimed at formalizing the extradition request [on April 14, 2022.]”

In addition, the judge noted that a warrant for Steynberg’s arrest was also “issued on 03/01/2022 by the Justice of South Africa, as evidenced by Interpol’s Red Diffusion documents.” A document reportedly sent by the South African Public Ministry suggested that the MTI CEO was being probed for his role in the bitcoin scam when he left the country.

Steynberg a Flight Risk

As previously reported by News, before disappearing in late 2020, Steynberg had handed control of MTI funds to his wife Nerina. Yet by the time he was arrested by Brazilian law enforcement in December 2021, the former MTI mastermind was reportedly in a relationship with a Brazilian woman.

Addressing Steynberg’s attempt to use his intimate relationship with the unnamed woman as justification for blocking his extradition, Mendonça said:

The fact that the person being extradited has taken up residence in Brazil and constituted a family does not, in itself, prevent the precautionary arrest and the future extradition. As well noted by the Attorney General’s Office, the ‘rule in extraditions is the precautionary arrest, due to the respect reciprocal between jurisdictions.’ The person being extradited, it must be repeated, is with the imprisonment in your country of origin.

The judge added that the fact that Steynberg had fake identity documents at the time of his arrest means he likely has an “intention to evade possible criminal liability.” The judge’s ruling also hints that Steynberg might still violate the conditions of a house arrest should the court accede to his request for one.

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Terence Zimwara

Terence Zimwara is a Zimbabwe award-winning journalist, author and writer. He has written extensively about the economic troubles of some African countries as well as how digital currencies can provide Africans with an escape route.

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