Finance

Victims Pieter J. put hope in crypto assets, scammer active again

Last week, RTL Z reported that founder Pieter J. of the crypto company Bitnextfast has been sentenced by the Amsterdam court for fraud and money laundering to a prison term of 27 months, of which 12 are suspended.

Scam

At the beginning of 2018, J. raised more than 5.6 million euros from investors with false promises, to start trading cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin. In reality, he put only a tiny fraction of that money into cryptos.

He put a large part of the money of customers in his own pocket, to lead a luxurious life. With another part, he paid out fake returns to investors, to keep them happy.

Duped investors

Investors who invested a lot of money at the time, have seen nothing of it for years. Nevertheless, there is a chance that the victims will still get some of their investment back.

When J. was arrested in the summer of 2018, money was seized from bank accounts, cash and accounts with cryptocurrencies.

crypto assets

The decision of the Amsterdam court earlier this month shows that part of the crypto assets in question have not yet been redeemed because the accounts could not be unlocked.

The court has forfeited those assets. The intention is that they enter the bankrupt estates of J. and his company and that they can still be converted into money there, so that the victims can be partly compensated with the proceeds.

Value increase

Two Bitnextfast investors who wish to remain anonymous but whose identities are known to the editors say the funds consist of bitcoin. They have pinned their hopes on the massive appreciation of that crypto in recent years.

“There is a chance that those cryptos are now worth so much that all investors can be compensated,” said one of them. “The problem is that no one can say for sure how much money is involved.”

The second investor even hopes that, thanks to the appreciation, the assets are now worth more than the deposit. At the time, bitcoin was at 8,000 euros, now it is at 50,000. “So there may just be money left over. I think the investors should also benefit from the profit in that case.”

Chance of winning negligible

Incidentally, that chance seems negligible. Research by the FIOD showed that J. actually invested less than 700,000 euros of the 5.6 million euros invested in crypto at the time. Some of it has already been cashed in.

It is therefore unlikely that the remaining cryptos would now be worth more than the full investment of the investors. If those accounts can still be unlocked at all.

Payment delayed

The investors complain about the attitude of the Public Prosecution Service in the settlement of the case. The Public Prosecution Service is said to be too little transparent towards the victims, and too little haste with the payment of the money.

Also, the settlement would be delayed due to the trustee’s lack of knowledge of cryptos. “We as investors run into the ignorance of the Public Prosecution Service and the curator,” said one of the investors, who says he has invested more than 700,000 euros in the crypto company.

‘First see, then believe’

Curator Roger Kaas, who has to clean up the shards of the bankruptcy of the fund behind Bitnextfast and the private bankruptcy of Pieter J., confirms that stories are circulating about cryptocurrencies still present. “But I hear so much. I take the standpoint: first see, then believe.”

According to the bankruptcy trustee, his limited knowledge of cryptocurrencies should not be an obstacle in the settlement of the bankruptcies, as is believed by the investors. “If necessary, I am assisted by experts. I always do. With cryptocurrencies, the difference is, of course, that the value can fluctuate enormously.”

Kaas says he is currently unable to say how much money is expected to be distributed among the duped investors. “As soon as I can report something about that, it will be read in the bankruptcy reports.”

Spanish real estate

For the duped investors, there may be more in store than just accounts with cryptos. Research by RTL Z shows that Pieter J. was involved in the establishment of a Spanish real estate company at the beginning of 2020.

That company is located in a luxurious villa in Ibiza, one of the locations where J. flew in 2018 with a rented private jet to celebrate his holiday. If that company is in J.’s name and owns properties, Spanish real estate may also be cashed in for the benefit of duped investors.

Curator Kaas says he is aware of the real estate company’s existence. “I also have an idea where the money comes from, but I can’t say anything about it yet.”

To watch out! Pieter J. active again

Investors should continue to watch out for Pieter J. The now 27-year-old crypto trader was sentenced to 15 months in prison earlier this month, but has appealed against that ruling. He is free to await the outcome.

Although J. claimed during his criminal case that he wanted to change his life, it turns out that he was arrested for the second time in October for starting a new crypto company.

pyramid scheme

According to the Public Prosecution Service (OM), he is once again guilty of exploiting a pyramid scheme. “The suspect pretended to invest the money deposited by victims in cryptocurrency and achieved a high return. As soon as customers asked to pay out, the distribution was made with freshly raised investment money.”

J. thus repeated the practices from 2018, for which he has now been convicted. The Public Prosecution Service also states that the hard-learned scammer has again made ‘large private expenditure’ with the money invested by victims.

Free

The Public Prosecution Service has announced that a new investigation into the man is underway, but that he has not been detained as a result of the new suspicion. In October, the Public Prosecutor urged the court to be detained, because of ‘an urgent interest (…) for society as well as for the suspect himself’.

During searches of buildings in Purmerend and Assendelft in October, the FIOD seized digital data carriers and crypto wallets, a car, jewellery, a watch and clothing, ‘all from the expensive segment’. A gun and ammunition were also found.

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