Gauteng “tech entrepreneur” locked up for international fraud scheme

Martins Egenamba, a Steyn City resident who claimed to be a technology entrepreneur, has been jailed for defrauding victims in the United States and South Africa of millions of dollars.

According to the Sunday Times, Egenamba was the mastermind behind a sophisticated scheme that used business e-mail compromise fraud.

The US authorities notified the Hawks about Egenamba’s alleged fraudulent scheme, and with help from the South African Cyber Fraud Task Team, the Hawks were able to track down local financial transactions worth approximately R16 million by Egenamba.

Egenamba’s scheme involved invoices being intercepted and modified to change the bank account details — ensuring Egenamba’s team would receive the money rather than the intended target.

In the case of the US fraud cases, the money would ultimately be sent from the US to the FNB account of Egenamba’s South African company — Barlon d’Or Group.

Egenamba was convicted of fraud in South Africa and was sentenced to 15 years in jail. He is also under a separate, ongoing investigation about another alleged fraud scheme where he earned a further R6 million.

Johann Steynberg, Mirror Trading International CEO

South African scams

While egregious, Egenamba’s fraudulent activities pale in comparison to South Africa’s biggest financial scams.

For example, the country’s biggest pyramid scheme and cryptocurrency scam, Mirror Trading International (MTI), operated in the realm of billions of rand.

The scheme claimed to offer automated trading services — initially in forex and later in cryptocurrency derivatives.

It saw a massive surge in growth after adopting a multilevel marketing referral system, further spurred by the lockdown during the Covid-19 pandemic.

MTI claimed to use an AI-powered “bot” that yielded growth in members’ bitcoin of 0.5% to 1.5% per day.

After several overseas financial regulators issued warnings about the scheme, the Financial Sector Conduct Authority (FSCA) finally recommended in August 2020 that people withdraw their money from MTI as soon as possible.

In September of that year, a group calling itself Anonymous ZA exploited vulnerabilities in MTI’s poorly-coded website.

Together with a MyBroadband investigative journalist and community members, the group exposed the inner workings of MTI.

The company collapsed a few months later. In January 2021, the FSCA finalised its investigation and confirmed it was a scam.

The scheme’s leadership placed the blame on Johann Steynberg — who disappeared to Brazil and was arrested in the country over a year later.

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Gauteng “tech entrepreneur” locked up for international fraud scheme