British national Renwick Haddow, 49, has been charged with two counts of wire fraud and extradited from Morocco to the US.
The US Department of Justice charges are connected to two fraudulent startups allegedly defrauding investors of more than USD 36 million.
Haddow was originally charged in the US in June 2017 and arrested in Morroco the following month. Geoffrey Berman, the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and William Sweeney Jr, assistant director-in-charge of the FBI’s New York office, reported that Haddow had been extradited from Morocco and is scheduled to appear in a New York court on Friday.
According to Attorney Berman, “Haddow made material misrepresentations… about the management, operations and historical performances of the companies.”
One of the startups under investigation, the ‘Bitcoin Store’, was supposedly led by CEO ‘Gordon Phillips’, who was said to have received a master of science degree in finance from Yale and to have previously been head of global currency and options at HSBC. The FBI investigation showed that neither Yale nor HSBC had any records for Phillips.
According to Haddow, the Bitcoin Store had generated sales of USD 7.6 million whereas the firm’s bank account showed a balance of only USD 500, according to the investigation.
The US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) originally filed charges against Haddow last year for misleading investors. It reported that the Briton had claimed to have had an “experienced team of leading investment professionals” behind the company. The Department of Justice confirmed that “he alone was the brains behind the bitcoins store” and that the “experienced team” was Haddow’s own fabrication.
The Moroccan ministry of justice originally held Haddow to investigate the Bitcoin Shop, Bar Works, and a third startup, In Crowd Equity. He faces jail of up to 20 years for each of the charges.
Morocco’s foreign exchange authority has stated that the use of cryptocurrencies within the country can lead to penalties under existing rules, although the Moroccan exchange regulator, along with the Central Bank of Morocco, state that they will continue to regularly monitor the development of cryptocurrencies around the world.