An Australian promoter of an alleged $US2.6 billion ($3.7 billion) cryptocurrency Ponzi scheme whose wife went missing last year has had his assets frozen and been hit with a travel ban as part of an investigation by international authorities.
The Federal Court has slapped travel bans and freezing orders on BitConnect promoter John Bigatton following a request by Australia's corporate watchdog ASIC, which is investigating his business affairs.
Mr Bigatton, who has previously been a licensed financial adviser for wealth management groups based in Sydney and Melbourne, is linked to the collapse of BitConnect which has rocked the US.
The collapse of BitConnect has shone a light on the huge risks involved in investing in the largely unregulated world of cryptocurrency tokens. According to a series of legal cases filed in the US against BitConnect, investors were promised returns of up to 40 per cent by promoters and that people could "turn a $US1,000 investment into a $US50 million return within three years", according to a class action filed in Florida.
The court has also frozen the assets of a company believed to be linked to Mr Bigatton, JB’s Investment Management.
Mr Bigatton’s wife Madeline Bigatton is listed in ASIC records as the sole director and shareholder of JB’s Investment Management.
Mrs Bigatton went missing in March sparking fears she had met with foul play or had taken her own life.
Her 2017 Kia Sorento was located at Cape Solander, Kurnell but after an extensive search by helicopter, marine area command and the dog unit she was not located.
NSW police confirmed to The Age and Herald this week that Mrs Bigatton was still considered missing and her case had been referred to the coroner for investigation. A memorial was held for Mrs Bigatton in May.
She is not named as a defendant to ASIC’s application to the court for freezing orders.
There is no suggestion that Mr Bigatton was involved in his wife’s disappearance.
Mrs Bigatton’s disappearance coincided with a major investigation into US-based cryptocurrency business BitConnect by the FBI and other authorities in March this year.
Mr Bigatton is closely linked to the massive BitConnect platform which had customers around the world, including in Australia.
Mr Bigatton is listed as a director and shareholder of BitConnect International Plc, a company that is incorporated in the United Kingdom.
He is also listed as the sole representative of BitConnect Australia according to company documentation filed with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission.
In one BitConnect video that is no longer available online, Mr Bigatton stands on stage at a BitConnect conference attended by over a thousand people as cash rains from the roof and the Star Wars theme plays.
In another video he states that crytocurrencies like BitConnect is: “Exactly the stock market in its early days except it’s the stock market on steroids, it’s the stock market times 10.”
BitConnect sold tokens a type of bitcoin known as the BitConnect coin before suddenly shutting up shop last year amid concerns from customers it was a scam.
BitConnect’s effective collapse has sparked a rush of court cases in the US from people who allege they lost bitcoins worth many millions when BitConnect ceased trading.
Mr Bigatton was contacted by the SMH and Age on five different phone numbers listed under his name. He did not respond to inquiries.
Mr Bigatton also appears to have been working for another financial advisory house – Wealth Synergy, with his photo . Wealth Synergy did not respond to inquiries.
ASIC launched action to freeze Mr Bigatton’s assets in December. On ASIC’s request, Federal Court justice Michael Gleeson issued orders for Mr Bigatton to disclosure all bank accounts, “a list of the locations of all cryptocurrencies” held by him and any escrow accounts holding any crytocurrencies.
Several cases have been launched in the US against BitConnect and people believed to be associated with the group including key promoter Trevon James alleging BitConnect was a Ponzi scheme. Mr Bigatton is not named in any of the US court cases reviewed by The Age and the Herald.
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