Former BitConnect Australian national promoter, John Louis Anthony Bigatton, of Carss Park, New South Wales, has been charged following an ASIC investigation.
Mr Bigatton promoted the online cryptocurrency platform, BitConnect, before its collapse in early 2018. It is estimated that BitConnect had a market capitalisation of over US$2.5 billion in December 2017.
Mr Bigatton has been charged with the following:
- One count of operating an unregistered managed investment scheme (maximum penalty of 5 years imprisonment and/or a fine of $42,000);
- One count of providing unlicensed financial services on behalf of another person (maximum penalty of 2 years imprisonment and/or a fine of $42,000);
- Four counts of making a false or misleading statement affecting market participation (a maximum penalty for each charge of 10 years imprisonment and/or a fine of $945,000, or a fine of 3 times the proceeds derived from the commission of the offence).
ASIC alleges that Mr Bigatton was the Australian national promoter of Bitconnect from around 14 August 2017 to 18 January 2018.
ASIC alleges Mr Bigatton operated an unregistered managed investment scheme known as the BitConnect Lending Platform in Australia and that he provided unlicensed financial advice on behalf of another person in, amongst other things, seminars he conducted at various locations around Australia.
ASIC further alleges that during four seminars conducted by Mr Bigatton, he made false or misleading statements which were likely to induce investors to apply for, or acquire, interests in the BitConnect Lending Platform.
The matter was first mentioned in the Downing Centre Local Court on 17 November 2020, at which time the matter was adjourned for further mention on 2 February 2021.
The matter is being prosecuted by the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions after a referral from ASIC.
ASIC acknowledges the assistance of our domestic and international law enforcement counterparts in progressing its investigation, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
On 1 September 2020, ASIC banned Mr Bigatton from providing financial services for seven years (20-206MR).
In May 2019, ASIC updated Information Sheet 225 Initial coin offerings and crypto-assets (INFO 225) to help businesses involved with initial coin offerings (ICOs) and crypto-assets to consider their legal obligations and satisfy themselves they are operating lawfully.
Moneysmart.gov.au has information for investors on the risks of investing in initial coin offerings and cryptocurrencies.
ASIC recently issued a Scam Alert after observing a rise in crypto-asset (or cryptocurrency) scams during COVID-19: Scam alert: ASIC sees a rise in crypto scams.
Editor's note 1:
On 2 February 2021, the matter was adjourned to 16 March 2021.
Editor's note 2:
Following a mention on 16 March 2021, the matter was adjourned to 11 May 2021.
Editor’s note 3:
On 11 May 2021, the matter was mentioned in the Downing Centre Local court in Sydney. A plea of not guilty was entered for all charges and the matter was adjourned to 11 June 2021 in the District Court.
Editor's note 4:
On 11 June 2021, Mr Bigatton was arraigned in the District Court of New South Wales and entered pleas of not guilty to each of the charges. The matter has been listed for a readiness hearing on 22 April 2022 and trial on 6 June 2022.
Editor's Note 5:
On 21 April 2022, the Court made orders for the filing and service of a proposed amended indictment, defence evidence, and other pre-trial steps. The readiness hearing on 22 April 2022 was vacated.
ASIC notes the decision of CDPP to not proceed with the prosecution of the four charges for making a false or misleading statement affecting market participation. An amended indictment is to be filed and served by the CDPP by 27 April 2022. The trial for the charges of operating an unregistered managed investment scheme and providing unlicensed financial services on behalf of another person was confirmed to commence on 6 June 2022.
Editor's Note 6:
On 2 June 2022, the matter was mentioned in the Downing Centre District Court. The trial, scheduled to commence on 6 June 2022, has been vacated and the matter listed for trial on 20 June 2022. The matter has been listed for further mention on 14 June 2022.
Editor's Note 7:
On 14 June 2022, the matter was mentioned in the Downing Centre District Court. The trial, scheduled to commence on 20 June 2022, has been vacated. The matter has been listed for further mention on 22 August 2022, a readiness hearing on 16 June 2023, and trial on 31 July 2023.
Editor’s Note 8:
On 4 August 2023, the matter was adjourned to 25 August 2023.
Editor’s Note 9:
The matter is next listed in the NSW District Court on 25 September and 23 October 2023. Mr Bigatton has also filed an appeal with the NSW Court of Criminal Appeal in relation to an interlocutory decision of the NSW District Court. The appeal is next listed for call over on 7 September 2023.