In a courtroom in Harare, a man with expertise in cryptocurrency, specifically bitcoin, faced charges of defrauding an eye specialist of US$457,000 in a bitcoin transaction by illicitly siphoning funds from the victim’s accounts. Lloyd Chiyangwa, aged 30, stood before Harare regional Magistrate Mrs Marehwanazvo Gofa, where he was formally accused of theft and money laundering.

Chiyangwa was remanded in custody pending a bail application, as the prosecution opposed his release on the grounds that he possessed two passports and two South African bank accounts. There were concerns that he might attempt to flee to South Africa.

The complainant in this case is an eye specialist who operates an Eye Centre in Harare. According to the State’s account, in July 2020, the complainant purchased cryptocurrency from a United Kingdom-based company while in India. Upon returning to Zimbabwe in 2021, he sought the services of Chiyangwa, a cryptocurrency trader, to assist with setting up bitcoin wallets, selling bitcoins, transferring tokens between wallets, and acquiring other cryptocurrencies for his investment portfolio.

Chiyangwa proceeded to establish five wallets for the complainant, namely Trust Wallet, Exodus, Cosmostation, Wemix, and Metamask, where the complainant’s crypto-currency accounts were stored, in addition to two Trezor cloud storage devices. In the process, Chiyangwa gained access to sensitive seed phrases and passwords associated with the complainant’s wallets.

Between October 2021 and March 2023, Chiyangwa systematically pilfered tokens from various wallets belonging to the complainant, transferring them to his own wallet. The stolen amounts were divided into separate batches: US$261,500, US$49,950, US$98,915, US$7,800, US$7,268, US$30,874, and US$5,155. In total, the cumulative value of the stolen tokens amounted to US$457,468.

The situation came to light in May when the complainant attempted to engage in trading using his Trust Wallet. It was at this point that he discovered Chiyangwa had transferred all the tokens into his personal account. Notably, Chiyangwa utilized a portion of the ill-gotten gains to acquire luxury items, including two iPhone 14 cellphones, a laptop, and a Mercedes Benz Sedan.

The case remains ongoing as the court proceedings progress.