Representatives of the US authorities announced the detention of persons involved in the hacking of the Bitfinex exchange in 2016, as well as the confiscation of bitcoins worth $ 3.6 billion.
According to a press release from the US Department of Justice, the accused are spouses – 34—year-old Ilya Lichtenstein and 31-year-old Heather Morgan.
“According to court documents, Lichtenstein and Morgan allegedly conspired to launder income in the form of 119,754 BTC stolen from Bitfinex after a hacker hacked into the platform’s systems and performed more than 2,000 unauthorized operations,” the agency’s website reports.
According to officials, the stolen cryptocurrency eventually went to a Liechtenstein-controlled wallet.
“Over the past five years, approximately 25,000 of these stolen bitcoins have been withdrawn from Liechtenstein’s wallet through a complex money laundering process. This process ended with the transfer of part of the stolen funds to financial accounts controlled by Liechtenstein and Morgan.”
The remaining part of the stolen coins — more than 94,000 BTC — “remained in the wallet, which was used to receive and store illegal income related to hacking.”
“After executing court-sanctioned search warrants, special agents gained access to files in an online account controlled by Liechtenstein. These files contained the private keys necessary to access the digital wallet, which received funds stolen from Bitfinex directly, which allowed special agents to legally withdraw and return more than 94,000 bitcoins stolen from the platform. The recovered bitcoins are valued at more than $3.6 billion at the time of the operation.”
Representatives of the Ministry of Justice stressed that this is the largest case of confiscation of cryptocurrencies in the history of the department.
“Today, federal law enforcement agencies have again demonstrated that we can monitor money using blockchain tools. And we will not allow cryptocurrency to be a “safe haven” for money laundering or a territory of lawlessness within our financial system,” said Assistant Attorney General Kenneth Allen Polit Jr.
If Lichtenstein and Morgan are found guilty, they face up to 25 years in prison.
Representatives of Bitfinex said that they will continue to cooperate with the US Department of Justice to try to return all seized bitcoins. If it succeeds, the company will use 80% of the amount received for the repurchase and burning of UNUS SED LEO tokens within 18 months, as stipulated in the white paper.
As a result of the hacking in early August 2016, Bitfinex lost almost 120,000 BTC ($71.8 million at the exchange rate at that time, more than $5 billion at the current exchange rate) and suspended work for some time.
In May 2020, unknown persons sent 30.667192 BTC from stolen funds to anonymous addresses. In August, 4,571 BTC and 473,3183 BTC started moving.
In August 2020, Bitfinex announced a $400 million reward for facilitating the return of funds stolen from the platform in 2016.
In October of the same year, the attackers moved bitcoins worth more than $ 30 million, in December — a total of 7,045.48 BTC.
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Recall that on February 1, 94,643 BTC, stolen in 2016 from Bitfinex, were set in motion. Whale Alert service recorded more than 20 transactions