Statement of Commissioner Kristin N. Johnson Regarding CFTC Consent Order Imposing $1.7 Billion in Restitution against South African Commodity Pool Operator
September 07, 2023
Today, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC or Commission) announced the entry of a consent order against Mirror Trading International Proprietary Limited (MTI) by the Hon. David A. Ezra of the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas. MTI and its CEO, Cornelius Johannes Steynberg, engaged in an international multi-level marketing scheme by which they solicited and accepted nearly 30,000 bitcoin from at least 23,000 people located in the U.S. for participation in a commodity pool that purportedly traded retail foreign currency on a leveraged, margined, and/or financed basis. MTI misappropriated virtually all of the money instead. The order imposes restitution of over $1.7 billion against MTI, and effectively concludes a case that the CFTC filed in June 2022.
This case simultaneously exemplifies a few of the most important initiatives that the CFTC is currently pursuing through our Division of Enforcement (DOE). At the time this case was filed, I drew attention to the remarkable efforts that were made to collaborate with our cooperative law enforcement partners—six domestic and three international agencies. With ongoing liquidation proceedings regarding MTI in both Florida and South Africa, the need to work in parallel will continue. Ever evolving fintech and communications technologies mean that this sort of cross-border coordination is only going to become more critical to the CFTC’s enforcement work.
Moreover, the fraud detailed in the consent order involves both digital assets and forex, two areas of the CFTC’s enforcement jurisdiction that I emphasized in a recent statement concerning Ponzi schemes. As I said then:
I strongly encourage all members of the public to stay informed about the potential scams and abuses in digital assets markets by visiting our investor advisory page. Fraudsters offering guaranteed, or unusually high, returns—or both—should in particular prompt scrutiny and additional diligence before transferring any funds.
In the eight weeks since I made that statement, the CFTC has brought or resolved ten fraud or manipulation cases involving digital assets or forex. I commend the Division of Enforcement for continuing to stay vigilant, and sending a strong message to the market that the Commission will do what is necessary to protect its markets from fraud.
 See Statement of Commissioner Kristin Johnson Regarding the CFTC Charging South African Commodity Pool Operator and CEO with $1.7 Billion Fraud Involving Bitcoin, June 20, 2022, https://www.cftc.gov/PressRoom/SpeechesTestimony/johnsonstatement063022b.
 See Statement of Commissioner Kristin N. Johnson: Stop Digital Assets and Forex Ponzi Schemes, June 22, 2023, https://www.cftc.gov/PressRoom/SpeechesTestimony/johnsonstatement062223.