Riccardo Spagni, former lead maintainer for Monero (XMR), was arrested last month in the US and will soon be extradited to South Africa to face fraud charges linked to alleged offences in the RSA between 2009 and 2011.
Spagni, known online as “Fluffy Pony”, has been accused of stealing approximately US$100,000 from his former employer, Cape Cookies, by creating false invoices and redirecting payments to his personal bank accounts between 2009-2011.
If Spagni is convicted, he faces 20 years in prison.
Fraud or Misunderstanding?
In the wake of his arrest, Spagni’s wife, Saskia, posted a message on her Twitter account on her husband’s behalf:
Despite the fact that Spagni’s arrest had nothing to do with his work on the Monero project, a member of the Monero core team issued a statement on Twitter:
Crypto Community Supports Fluffy
Spagni is a highly respected figure within the crypto community. He became interested in Bitcoin in 2011 and emerged as a prominent, entertaining and well-liked figure over ensuing years. This was largely down to his colourful personality and his involvement in various crypto projects, particularly Monero, where he worked as lead maintainer for five years from 2014 until 2019. Despite these recent charges, many in the community stand by him.
Some within the Monero community have suggested that the charges might have been fabricated due to anti-cryptocurrency sentiment that has been building within governments around the world. There is no evidence to support these claims, though on paper the specifics of the case and the timing of the allegations do seem quite strange.
Governments Wage War on Privacy Coins
Privacy coins like Monero have faced hard times in recent years, often the target of regulatory action from governments resistant to their citizens having access to anonymous transactions. Last month, an Australian couple was charged with operating one of the world’s largest illegal marketplaces, which accepted both bitcoin and Monero in exchange for illegal goods and services.
At the start of the year, Bittrex delisted Monero, ZCash and Dash, presumably because of regulatory pressure. Australian exchanges have also been feeling the heat, with exchanges like Swyftx forced to delist privacy coins as well. However, decentralised exchanges such as COMIT Network are hoping to get around this by offering atomic swaps instead of regular trading.
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