$ 22.2 million (around Rs.165 billion) worth of cryptocurrencies were seized by UK police after a global fraud program was uncovered. They found USB sticks with large amounts of Ethereum, the second largest cryptocurrency in the world after Bitcoin. Greater Manchester Police (GMP) said the system had defrauded people from the UK, US, Europe, China, Australia and Hong Kong. The victims deposited money, some even with all of their savings, believing it was a real savings and trading service with Binance Smart Chain. Two people were arrested for suspected fraud and money laundering but were released as part of the investigation.
The discovery has brought the anonymous and international nature of these virtual currencies into focus. Criminals often take advantage of anonymity to launder money, engage in terrorism, tax fraud and drug trafficking. Although the majority of cryptocurrency transactions are legitimate, many are also fraudulent.
GMP’s white-collar crime department said a total of $ 9.5 million (approximately Rs.70.6 billion) of stolen Ethereum was found in the seized USB sticks. Police found an additional $ 12.7 million (about Rs 94.4 billion) a few days later after finding an online safe (a cryptographic locker) and its access code.
GMP said they had started tracking down the rightful owners, some of whom are still unknown and spread around the world, and reuniting them with their money.
One of the victims of the scam, who wanted to remain anonymous, told police that he had been using cryptocurrencies for years. “The hack really surprised us at first,” he added, thanking the police for tracking the money.
GMP said the victim will now get 90 percent of their investment back and if all funds are not claimed they will get the full amount.
Detective Chief Inspector Joe Harrop of the Economic Crime Unit said people are increasingly moving online, viewing cryptocurrency as the future of money and trade. But this shift is also creating a new breed of crime, and opportunistic criminals are trying to take advantage of these trends and any gaps in technology. Harrop said the police must adapt to this emerging type of crime as well.
On August 19th (12:10 p.m. IST) the price of Ether in India was Rs. 2.33 lakhs.
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