South African regional court is set to release Riccardo Spagni, the former Monero developer, from custody. He was arrested immediately after landing at OR Tambo International Airport and later taken into custody. However, the court magistrate resorted to releasing him, accused of fraud. The verdict to release the former Monero lead developer comes just a few days after his arrest.
Not too long ago, the crypto developer – who goes by the moniker Fluffypony on social media – was posing for Instagram pictures with US socialite Paris Hilton at a bitcoin conference in Miami. He revealed to the court that he returned to South Africa willingly and claimed he was not a flight risk.
This isn’t the first time law enforcement agencies have arrested Riccardo Spagni. No, on 21 July 2021, he was arrested by U.S. law enforcement agents in Nashville, Tennessee. The arrest is attributed to him instigating the South African government. As a result, he was kept in U.S. custody, awaiting the completion of the extradition process, which would see him transferred to the South African justice system.
The extradition process, however, experienced hitches. On several occasions, he (Riccardo Spagni) resisted his extradition to South Africa. However, after a long extradition motion, Alistair E. Newbernon, a U.S. magistrate judge, granted the decision to transfer Spagni from the U.S to South Africa. This took place on 30 June. The process went through as planned, and on 11 July, Riccardo Spagni arrived in South Africa, where the South African law enforcement agents immediately arrested him.
National Prosecuting Authority spokesperson said:
Spagni launched various unsuccessful applications in the (Western Cape High Court) in his efforts to resist his extradition. He waived his rights and agreed to co-operate with the authorities on the eve of his extradition hearing in the United States of America scheduled for 25 May 2022.
Spagni’s failure to attend court hearings explained
According to analysts, Riccardo Spagni had failed to attend several court hearings. Initially, he had claimed that he failed to attend the scheduled court hearings for fear of contracting Covid-19. This claim came when the South African prosecution team debated his release from custody pending trial. Steven Pritchard, the investigating officer assigned Riccardo’s case, argued that Riccardo was not suitable to be granted bail due to his lame excuse for not attending court hearings. He later produced his signed affidavit to support his decision. This affidavit also showed why he was given the release on warning grant.
In his defense, Spagni stated that failing to attend the scheduled court hearings was not his fault. He argued that he was against the U.S decision to extradite him from U.S custody to South Africa. He continued by saying that he opted to return to South Africa willingly on the condition that he would be released on warning as initially agreed. However, the state had canceled the grant, so he resisted the extradition. He based his explanation on his affidavit.
The court prosecution team later decided to release Spagni on bail. He is supposed to appear in court on 19 July for his trial.
Spagni’s Covid-19 case
In an attempt to deter the court’s decision to release Spagni on bail, Steven Pritchard claimed that Spagni failed to comply with Covid-19 control measures while in Miami. On 4th and 5th June 2021, he was at the Bitcoin convention alongside Paris Hilton and other world celebrities. The meeting was heavily crowded, yet Spagni had no mask on. He cited this allegation from the affidavit he had presented to the prosecution team. This comes after Spagni stated that he failed to attend the court hearing because he feared contracting Covid 19.