The US Department of Justice has seized 3.6 billion dollars in stolen bitcoins, or more than 3.1 billion euros. Hackers had stolen the crypto coins in 2016 from the online exchange Bitnifex, a trading platform for cryptocurrencies. Justice speaks of the largest financial seizure ever.
In total, 120,000 bitcoins were stolen during the hack. These now represent a value of more than 4.5 billion dollars (more than 3.9 billion euros). At the time of the hack in 2016, that was still 71 million dollars (61 million euros).
A New York couple has been arrested on suspicion of laundering some of the stolen bitcoins. In total, about 25,000 laundered crypto coins in dollar form ended up in their account. Justice was able to secure and confiscate the other 94,000 stolen bitcoins.
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According to the US authorities, the arrests show that cryptocurrencies do not provide a safe haven for criminals. The stolen bitcoins are said to have been laundered through a labyrinth of crypto transactions, including on the so-called dark web, a hidden part of the internet.
“Criminals always leave traces,” said the FBI’s vice director. “This case proves that the FBI has the resources to follow digital trails wherever they lead.”
The two arrested Americans have spent the money raised on everything from gold to a $500 Walmart gift card. They are due to appear in court today.