The MTI scam, the Bitcoin price, and lessons learnt for the year ahead….

The last two weeks or so have been a rollercoaster ride of note..

First the developments on the MTI front, which shocked and outraged a good number of the 280 000 members around the world, and then, to add salt to a fresh wound, a huge spike in the Bitcoin price for those who had just lost their Bitcoin…or a good portion of it, any rate.

It’s been a stressful time indeed.

Nobody could have anticipated that MTI (Mirror Trading International) would have collapsed so spectacularly, so suddenly, and so tragically, after approximately 18 months of such stellar growth. From a small and informal family and friends business in March/April 2019 to a substantial global business of some 280 000 members in December 2020, MTI is now in the throes of liquidation – with absolutely devastating consequences for many.

Tragedy on a grand scale. And, if you believe all the coverage on social media, due to the devious machinations of CEO Johann Steynberg – and, who knows, quite possibly those close to him as well.

At the time of writing, Johan Steynberg is purportedly in hiding in Brazil. Or Panama. Or elsewhere in South America.

What’s important is that he is urgently located and access to the MTI Bitcoin wallets obtained, as the livelihoods of tens of thousands of MTI members depend on it.

Whilst investigations are apparently underway by enforcement agencies, and the facts and truth are still to be revealed, it beggars belief that a man who until recently was held up as a paragon of virtue, a “really nice guy” and a person who stood up for the “little guy” and the financial empowerment of those struggling globally, could instead well be a scamster of note, and someone out only to look after his own personal interests.

Anyone who has read my blog articles on MTI will know that I’ve always perceived Johan Steynberg to be a decent type: a quietly-spoken Polokwane-based computer programmer and family man out to do good and help the less fortunate. By all accounts, he had a big heart and was well regarded in his community. Yes, I was aware (as were countless other MTI members) of his involvement with two network marketing opportunities that had gone belly-up previously. Thing is, he was upfront about his involvement in these failed ventures: something that won him plaudits for his “honesty” amongst many. After all, many of us in the cryptocurrency space have found ourselves victims of scams, and so it was easy to also view him as a victim.

We watched him on MTI webinars – taking questions and answering them with sincerity. Friends of his – people who had seemingly known him for years – spoke of him in glowing terms. Friendly, giving, generous, honest. Those MTI leaders who flew up to Johannesburg to meet with him to have a look at the trading prior to getting involved with MTI believed him to be genuine and an all-round good guy. Thumbs-up were given all round.

It was only after news broke in December following his leaving the country and the resultant disappearance of the MTI membership’s Bitcoin that we started to imagine the “real” Johann Steynberg; a seemingly dishonest and devious character out to defraud. (This, IF reports in the mainstream media and social media are to be believed).

I have always regarded myself as a decent judge of character, but IF Johan Steynburg is found to be guilty, boy, did I get this one wrong. As did many, many others, I’m sure.

Due to my online MTI presence, I have received many messages from MTI members who just cannot get over what has happened: who cannot believe  that Steynberg may well not be who they thought he was.

Fact is, we as MTI members have been horribly blindsided. How can someone we all held up as decent and hardworking – a CEO often called “the hardest working CEO ever” – do a “runner”, leaving behind his wife and daughter in the process? Especially one who was purportedly extremely wealthy prior to the advent of MTI, and who, to all intents and purposes, had no need to run off with the Bitcoin of its members?

Again, this assumes that he IS guilty – that he acted alone, and that he indeed pulled the strings. (The jury seems to still be out on this…)

The real tragedy here of course is all the people who have been left destitute by the collapse of the company. Those who gave up their jobs to work MTI as a full time business. Those who took out loans on their properties to fund their MTI accounts. Those who cashed in their pensions to maximise their MTI weekly binary commissions….

Whilst there were those who seemingly lost millions through MTI’s collapse, it’s the pensioners and others who put their last pennies into MTI who I feel really sorry for, and I fervently hope that if he is ever located and brought back to South Africa, he – at the very least – honours all withdrawals made and sees to it that all those who have suffered losses are paid back what’s due to them. Time will tell of course, and the truth will out (as it always does).

The double whammy here (and it’s a cruel one indeed) is the recent sharp spike in the Bitcoin price.

At a time when members should have been delighted by this jump in the price of Bitcoin (a higher Bitcoin price would have boosted their MTI weekly binary commissions), the only real beneficiary now is the person (or persons) who stole the Bitcoin of MTI’s members and have access to the Bitcoin. (A tragic case of the rich getting richer and members being left to rue the Bitcoin they should have had). Talk about there being no justice!

Speaking of the Bitcoin price: those people with Bitcoin and who did NOT suffer losses through the MTI scam will be smiling. Who would have thought that a price in excess of $30 000 per Bitcoin would be seen so soon?

By all accounts, 2021 is shaping up to be a really good year for Bitcoin – primarily for two reasons:

The growing adoption of the cryptocurrency by institutions (think large-scale bitcoin purchases by the likes of Paypal, MicroStrategy, MassMutual and others)
The amount of Bitcoin that is “stagnant” and not moving (there can only ever be 21 million Bitcoin, and if the vast majority of Bitcoin in circulation is not moving to exchanges and is being held by “whales” with no intention of selling, there is only a limited supply for buyers to get their hands on).

Well-known and respected Macro investor Raoul Pal believes it’s possible for the price of Bitcoin to reach between $400 000 and $1.2 million by the end of this year if trends are to continue – whilst Galaxy Digital founder and CEO Mike Novogratz says major firms have changed their tune on crypto in the last three years, potentially affecting the supply of new coins. “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” author Robert Kiyosaki believes it’s just a matter of time before Bitcoin hits $50 000, whilst Larry Fink, CEO of BlackRock – the world’s largest asset manager – feels that Bitcoin could well “evolve into a global market”.

There just doesn’t seem to be much in the way of a significant rise in the Bitcoin price this year, and continuous Governmental printing of fiat currency globally is essentially providing wind in bitcoin’s sails…

Lessons learnt for the year ahead?

Being a victim of the MTI scam has taught me a number of lessons. Amongst them?

The importance of doing a THOROUGH due diligence on any crypto-related platform or business opportunity you’re looking to join, and asking the hard questions.
The importance of risk mitigation

Risk mitigation encompasses a) investing only funds you can afford to lose and b) withdrawing your capital as soon as you can so you are essentially “in” risk-free.

In terms of a due diligence, ask the questions that others are not asking (due to them coming across as “silly” or “foolish”). After all, it’s YOUR money you’re investing so you have the right to ask as many questions as you like.

Another lesson learnt is: BE LESS TRUSTING OF PEOPLE. This is not to say be UNTRUSTING – just LESS trusting! There are many, many scammers out there, just waiting to relieve you of your hard-earned funds. A lesson that approximately 280 000 MTI members now know only too well…

Applying these lessons could well lessen any pain down the road. The crypto space is clearly high risk and anyone entering it needs to be aware of the risks. Cold comfort I know for those who have been duped out of their Bitcoin though….

Aside from running South Africa’s smallest ad agency, Kavonic Hone – see www.kavonichone.co.za – Gerard has been in the cryptocurrency space for almost 6 years and is an active member of the Hypertech Group’s Hypercommunity. He is not a financial advisor and does not purport to be. He is also not qualified or allowed to give financial advice. He is resident in Johannesburg South Africa and is contactable on +27 83 444 9888 and on gerard@kavonichone.co.za or info@hypercommunity.africa His skype address is gerardkavonic. Anyone wanting information on the Hypercommunity’s daily webinars or Saturday training sessions is welcome to whatsapp him on +27 83 444 9888 and anyone looking to join the Hypercommunity can do so on https://h5.hypercapital.vip/#/pages/register/register?code=banket1804

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