The US Justice Department confiscated $3.6 billion in bitcoin on Tuesday in connection with the 2016 breach of the cryptocurrency exchange Bitfinex, according to the US Justice Department. Authorities also accused two individuals in Manhattan, a married couple in their 30s, of conspiring to launder bitcoin stolen during the breach. The total worth of bitcoin stolen in the theft is currently $4.5 billion.
“Today’s arrests, as well as the department’s largest financial seizure ever, demonstrate that cryptocurrency is not a haven for criminals,” Deputy Attorney General Lisa O. Monaco said in a statement.
According to court filings, the defendants “allegedly colluded to launder the profits of 119,754 bitcoin stolen from Bitfinex’s platform after a hacker accessed Bitfinex’s servers and initiated more than 2,000 unlawful transactions.”
Authorities were given a search order to examine the suspects’ internet accounts. According to the DOJ, they were able to retrieve private keys to a digital wallet that “directly received the monies stolen from Bitfinex,” according to the DOJ. As a result, authorities could recover almost 94,000 bitcoins, worth more than $3.6 billion at the time of seizure, using the private keys.
“Today, federal law enforcement demonstrates once again that we can track money through the blockchain and that we will not allow cryptocurrency to be a haven for money laundering or a zone of lawlessness within our financial system,” said Kenneth Polite Jr., assistant attorney general for the DOJ’s Criminal Division, in a statement.
According to a January 2022 research by Chainalysis, cryptocurrency use in crime saw nearly $14 billion routed to criminal addresses in 2021. Last year, though, criminality accounted for fewer than 1% of all bitcoin transactions.