Billions of dollars in stolen Bitcoin (BTC) have been seized by the US Department of Justice (DOJ), according to a recent statement issued on Tuesday.
In 2016 the cryptocurrency exchange Bitfinex announced that it was hacked, and $4.5 billion worth of Bitcoin had been stolen from its wallets. Now, authorities have announced that $3.6 billion has been seized by the DOJ, and a couple living in Manhattan has been arrested for an alleged conspiracy of laundering the stolen Bitcoin. Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco said, "Today's arrests, and the department's largest financial seizure ever, show that cryptocurrency is not a safe haven for criminals."
The DOJ states that it was able to seize the Bitcoin through court-approved searches into the individual's online accounts, which later revealed the couple's private keys to the wallets containing the stolen BTC. Law enforcement was able to claim 94,000 Bitcoin, worth about $60 million at the time of the hack and representing about one-sixth of the total trading volume in 2016.
"Today's arrests, and the department's largest financial seizure ever, show that cryptocurrency is not a safe haven for criminals. In a futile effort to maintain digital anonymity, the defendants laundered stolen funds through a labyrinth of cryptocurrency transactions. Thanks to the meticulous work of law enforcement, the department once again showed how it can and will follow the money, no matter what form it takes," said Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco in a statement.
"In a methodical and calculated scheme, the defendants allegedly laundered and disguised their vast fortune. IRS-CI Cyber Crimes Unit special agents have once again unraveled a sophisticated laundering technique, enabling them to trace, access and seize the stolen funds, which has amounted to the largest cryptocurrency seizure to date, valued at more than $3.6 billion," said IRS-Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI) Chief Jim Lee in a statement.
"If Bitfinex receives a recovery of the stolen bitcoin, as described in the UNUS SED LEO token white paper, Bitfinex will, within 18 months of the date it receives that recovery use an amount equal to 80% of the recovered net funds to repurchase and burn outstanding UNUS SED LEO tokens. These token repurchases can be accomplished in open market transactions or by acquiring UNUS SED LEO in over-the-counter trades, including directly trading bitcoin for UNUS SED LEO," said Bitfinex in a statement.
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