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In a statement released on Thursday, a U.S. court has ordered the head of South Africa’s bitcoin pool operator, Mirror Trading International (MTI) to pay $3.4 billion in restitution and penalties, Commodities Future Trading Regulation  revealed. 

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The sum constitutes the highest civil monetary penalty ordered in any case brought by the Commodities Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), the regulator said.

The CFTC charged South Africa-based Cornelius Johannes Steynberg with fraud in June 2022, alleging the “controlling person” at MTI accepted 29,421 BTC (valued at more than $1.7 billion at the time of acceptance) from 23,000 Americans for running an unlicensed commodity pool scheme.

MTI is undergoing liquidation in South Africa, according to the CFTC announcement, while Steynberg himself is a fugitive from South African law enforcement detained in Brazil since December 2021.

Also Read: South Africa Mandates Risk Warnings On Crypto Adverts With New Advert Regulatory Code. 

The order finds MTI “liable for fraud in connection with retail foreign currency (forex) transactions, fraud by an associated person of a commodity pool operator (CPO), registration violations, and failure to comply with CPO regulations.”

In addition to the multi-billion dollar penalty, Steynberg is permanently prohibited from registering with the CFTC, and trading in any markets regulated by the watchdog.

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