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20-288MR Former BitConnect promoter John Bigatton charged
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.