A Bitcoin entrepreneur whose wife disappeared in mysterious circumstances is facing five years in jail, accused by the Australian Federal Police of swindling people of their life savings.
John Louis Anthony Bigatton is being investigated for money laundering during his time as Australian director of Bitconnect, a failed cryptocurrency trading platform.
Mr Bigatton is accused of benefiting by at least $100,000 when Bitconnect suddenly went bust in January 2018, losing international mum and dad investors an estimated AUD$3.7 billion.
Just a few months after Bitconnect’s collapse, Mr Bigatton’s wife Madeline vanished.
She has not been seen since and continues to be listed as a missing person by NSW Police, but Mr Biggaton has repeatedly said he believes she is dead.
He most recently made the claim during a NSW Supreme Court hearing in March, as part of an ongoing investigation into Bitconnect’s collapse and Mr Bigatton’s benefit.
Daily Mail Australia can reveal that despite authorities also believing her to be dead, an affidavit filed with the Supreme Court names Mrs Bigatton as a defendant.
Bitcoin entrepreneur John Bigatton (left), whose wife Madeline (right) vanished in mysterious circumstances in March 2018, is under investigation by the Australian Federal Police for money laundering. If charged and found guilty, Mr Bigatton could face up to five years in prison
Mrs Bigatton was last seen on CCTV leaving the driveway of her family home at Carss Park, in Sydney’s south-eastern suburbs, on the morning of Sunday, March 25, 2018.
She dropped her daughter at a friend’s house and drove to Kurnell where her car was later found in a clifftop carpark.
Her wedding ring had been left inside the car and she had text her husband, saying: ‘Don’t forget to feed the dog’.
Messages sent from Mrs Biggaton, a pharmacist, seemed to confirm the collapse of Bitconnect had deeply affected her.
It is understood that Mr Bigatton had received death threats from angry investors, a number of which were left on his home phone and heard by his wife and children.
‘The day before she disappeared she said to her sister: “I’m not in a good place, I’m in a dark place”,’ one relative told Daily Mail Australia at the time of her disappearance.
‘At about 3.30pm, she sends John some weird messages.’
There is no suggestion Mr Bigatton had any involvement in his wife’s disappearance.
It has been more than two years since Mrs Bigatton was last seen and an inquest into her ‘disappearance and suspected death’ is expected to begin this year.
One of Mrs Bigatton’s uncles this week told Daily Mail Australia that his contact with her family had largely dried up since her disappearance.
Mrs Bigatton was last seen on CCTV leaving the driveway of her family home at Carss Park, in Sydney’s south-eastern suburbs, on the morning of Sunday, March 25, 2018 (pictured). Her car was found at a clifftop carpark at Kurnell that afternoon, with her wedding ring in the front seat
Exactly a week after his wife had disappeared, Mr Bigatton took this happy family photo during an Easter Sunday lunch – something that one relative described to Daily Mail Australia as ‘odd’
‘Madeline is not coming back, we’ve lost Madeline, so we’ll let the law run its course,’ an uncle of Mrs Bigatton told Daily Mail Australia this week when asked about an inquest into her death
He said he thinks his niece committed suicide and believes a coroner will agree.
‘I confronted him (John) and said: “What happened to my niece, I just want to know?” and it was then that he told me to: “F**k off”,’ the relative said.
‘It was more than likely (suicide), there were definitely (abusive) phone calls coming in and I think that probably affected her.
‘Madeline is not coming back, we’ve lost Madeline, so we’ll let the law run its course.’
Madeline is not coming back, we’ve lost Madeline…
Mr Bigatton appearance before the NSW Supreme Court last month came as part of an urgent bid by the AFP to seize his assets and bank accounts.
Officers from the AFP had made an application under the Proceeds of Crime Act to restrain his assets while their criminal investigation is continuing.
During the hearing his wife’s status as a missing person was raised, but Mr Bigatton told the court he had no doubt about her fate.
‘Ms Bigatton is listed as missing. Mr Bigatton says that she is now deceased,’ Justice Richard Cavanagh told the court.
‘I have no reason to doubt what Mr Bigatton says but she remains listed as missing.’
At the height of his success with Bitconnect, Mr Bigatton had danced on stage at a convention in Asia as cash rained down from the roof.
Many of Mrs Bigatton’s friends initially disputed that she could have committed suicide, saying the loving mother would never have left behind her two teenage daughters
But others claimed Mrs Bigatton had admitted being in a ‘dark place’ in the weeks before she was last seen and despite defending her husband (right), she had been deeply affected by the collapse of Bitconnect
Mr Bigatton’s bank accounts were frozen and assets such as his family home and cars seized, in the order handed down by the NSW Supreme Court. The court heard his assets were ‘disproportionate to his income’
He had taken his family on a holiday to the United States and splashed out on a sportscar.
But just months later he and others who had worked as ‘promoters’ for Bitconnect internationally were under investigation.
THE DISAPPEARANCE OF MADELINE BIGATTON:
January: Bitconnect, the company her husband John is Australian director of, suddenly collapses – costing investors AUD$3.7 billion across the globe
– In the months that follow Mr Bigatton receives death threats.
March: Mrs Bigatton tells friends she is in a ‘dark place’
– On the morning of Sunday, March 25, she takes one of her daughters off to a friends house. CCTV captures her as she gets in the car.
– Later that day her Kia Sportage is found at a parking lot at Kurnell, south of Sydney, her wedding ring is inside and she is nowhere to be seen
April: Exactly a week after Mrs Bigatton goes missing, her extended family gathers at her family home for Easter lunch.
– During this gathering John gets everyone together for a happy selfie. It is described by a relative as ‘a bit odd’.
June: Police launch an investigation into Mrs Bigatton’s disappearance.
January: ASIC freezes Mr Bigatton’s assets and orders him not to travel overseas while they investigate his role in the Bitconnect collapse
March: After ASIC drop their investigation, the Australian Federal Police begin to look into Mr Bigatton.
Mr Bigatton’s assets and money were first frozen in January 2019 so the Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC) could investigate his businesses.
But when the corporate watchdog eventually stopped pursuing the matter last year the orders threatened to lapse, essentially returning Mr Bigatton’s assets and money back to him.
That was when the AFP stepped in to pick up the investigation.
An affidavit filed in the Supreme Court by the AFP lists Mr Bigatton, Mrs Bigatton and the company JB’s Investment Management as defendants.
Mr Bigatton had listed his wife as the sole shareholder and director of the investment front, but the court heard the user name used to access its funds was his.
Under Australian law all financial trading platforms must be registered, but the AFP’s affidavit alleges Bitconnect never was.
During this time he was alleged to have dealt with more than $100,000 suspected of being the proceeds of crime.
As part of its evidence against him, the court heard the Bitconnect promoter’s home and assets were ‘disproportionate to his income’.
The seized assets included the Bigatton family home, his bank accounts and a $65,000 white Kia Stinger sportscar – as well as his wife’s black Kia Sportage.
In response to the allegations, Mr Bigatton claimed he had not committed any crimes and said that the fact ASIC had dropped its investigation into him was indicative of that.
He also claimed that he had made it ‘quite clear to investors (of Bitconnect) that they were engaged in a form of gambling’.
Mrs Bigatton (pictured with her daughter Lara) was named as a defendant in the proceedings before the NSW Supreme Court, despite being believed to be deceased. She was listed as the sole shareholder for JB’s Investment Management – although business user names were those of her husband
Mrs Bigatton disappeared at Kurnell, in south Sydney, on March 28, 2019. An inquest into her ‘disappearance and suspected death’ was due to get underway later this year
This was despite Bitconnect promising returns of 480 per cent annually.
Mr Bigatton told the court that because he was dealing with cryptocurrency the laws did not apply to him as they might to a regular share, currency or futures trader.
But Justice Cavanagh ruled against the entrepreneur, finding he had control over the investments of at least 21 Australians and that there were reasonable suspicions that he had committed the crimes alleged by the AFP.
The freeze on his assets – including his wife’s car – was continued and he was ordered to hand over all details of his Bitcoin wallets and passwords to the AFP.
The matter will return to the NSW Supreme Court on April 29. Mr Bigatton has not been charged with any criminal offences.
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