More than 10,000 investors, predominantly hailing from Harare and Chitungwiza, who had poured varying amounts ranging from US$100 to US$300,000 into a Bitcoin investment scheme, found themselves grappling with significant financial losses as the mastermind behind the operation abruptly shuttered the business without any prior notice. Promised substantial returns of 35% every two weeks on their initial investments, the victims of this fraudulent enterprise were left dismayed. The scheme, reportedly orchestrated by Phineas Chakanyuka, maintained multiple offices in both Harare and Chitungwiza.

Upon scrutiny, it became apparent that Chakanyuka had deceived his clients by asserting that they could amass substantial Bitcoin profits through “Immediate Momentum.” However, investigations unearthed that individuals could accumulate Bitcoins through various avenues like participating in mobile or online games, completing tasks on specific websites, or even writing about cryptocurrency.

Chakanyuka decided to clandestinely shut down all of his offices, leaving countless investors in dire straits. Despite efforts to contact him, his mobile phone remained unresponsive.

However, Chakanyuka sent messages via Bitcoin Interchange WhatsApp groups, asserting, “Our most valued clients. We are pleased to announce that we are still progressing very well. Our system upgrade was completed successfully. We are continuing to work tirelessly to resume operations. We had indicated that we will open on November 7 to November 14. However, there are still a few requirements that we are yet to complete on our side with our broker, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, and the police. Thank you for your continued patience in our very last phase towards official opening next year. Any inconvenience caused is sincerely regretted. Bitcoin Interchange is here to stay. Please note that your funds are available and safe. Once we get the green light, we will pay everyone.”

Peter Munyai, one of the affected investors, expressed his distress, mentioning that he had sold his house to invest in the scheme. “I am stressed. I sold my house and invested, and now this guy is nowhere to be found. We are organizing ourselves so that we make an official police report. Other disgruntled investors have already reported him to the police,” Munyai lamented. National police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi stated that they had not yet received any reports from the aggrieved parties. He mentioned, “I haven’t received such a report at the moment. I will definitely give you details as soon as I get that information.”

Bitcoin, a cryptocurrency originating in 2008 under the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto, operates as a computer file stored in digital wallets on smartphones or computers. Transactions are recorded in a public ledger known as the blockchain. Bitcoin experts predict that rewards for mining new Bitcoins will halve every four years, with the final Bitcoin likely remaining unmined until around 2140.