United State law enforcement has seized billions of bitcoins linked to the 2016 hack of cryptocurrency exchange Bitfinex.
In the Tuesday press release, the United State Department of Justice stated that it retrieved approx. 94,000 Bitcoins – worth $ 3.6 billion at time of seizure – linked to the hack, in which 120,000 bitcoins worth $70 million at the time were stolen from customer accounts. This is the largest seizure of financial assets ever made by the department.
“Today federal law enforcement is once again proving that we can track money via blockchain and will not allow cryptocurrency to be a safe haven for money laundering. or a zone of lawlessness within our financial system,” Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite Jr. of Justice Department’s Criminal Division said in press release.
Along with the bitcoin seizure, law enforcement arrested 2 suspects in Manhattan & charged them with laundering the stolen cryptocurrency & conspiracy to defraud the US.
The Department of Justice said Ilya Lichtenstein, 34 years old, and his wife, Heather Morgan, 31 years old, conspired to launder proceeds from Bitfinex hack from a digital wallet under Lichtenstein’s control. According to the press release, law enforcement discovered private keys needed to access the wallet & recovered 94,000 stolen bitcoins.
Over the past 5 years, other 25,000 bitcoins were “transferred from Lichtenstein’s wallet through a complicated money laundering process that resulted in some of the stolen funds being deposited in financial accounts controlled by Lichtenstein & Morgan. “, said in press release.
In 2016, the Bitfinex hack became the 2nd largest bitcoin theft from a cryptocurrency exchange, after the 2014 hack & subsequent collapse of Tokyo’s Mt.Gox, which lost of 850,000 bitcoins. In a statement, Bitfinex said it was “pleased” that the Justice Department had recovered. much of the bitcoin, adding that it has-been cooperating with department since investigation began.