They say crime doesn’t pay. But in this case, it was the search for criminals that did not end well for the New Zealand police. An online money laundering operation killed the theft of about $ 45,000 in bitcoin (BTC) from a law enforcement purse.
The undercover operation targeted criminals who were presumed to be part of a money laundering operation, but the persecuted ended up deceiving the agents, according to a local media outlet this Friday, July 9.
The bitcoins in the police force’s wallet had been purchased precisely to be used during the investigation, reported Stuart Mills, manager of technology operations for the National Criminal Investigation Group.
“The police are committed to learning from this incident and introducing stronger processes so it doesn’t happen again,” Mills said. Although the funds were stolen at the end of 2020, it is now when it is made known to the public.
Regarding the criminals, the agent assured that it was very likely that they operated from outside New Zealand. Furthermore, he argued that this theft was probably part of “a broader fraud targeting Bitcoin wallets”.
A subsequent investigation determined that the agents involved in the operation had not been part of the fraud. Although it was not exposed how the criminals managed to access the funds, it is likely that it was a scam in which the police were the victims.
Due to its cryptography, a person cannot access a Bitcoin wallet without the private key, which makes it very likely that they have managed to access them by hacking into police systems or that the agents voluntarily send the funds. However, officials did not give such details about what happened.
Financial Markets Authority: “All online transactions are at risk of crime”
Despite what happened, neither the Police nor other organizations seem to have taken the route of blaming bitcoin. In the case of the police force, new policies were defined to act in this type of investigation, seeking to improve its processes.
For its part, the Financial Markets Authority stated, quoted by the NZ Herald, that «All online transactions run the risk of [que haya] a cyber crime. The cryptocurrency in your wallet can be stolen just like the money in your real wallet.
The amount of this theft in New Zealand is low, compared to other scams involving bitcoin reported on CryptoNews. But the case is curious because of the involvement of law enforcement agents, as well as the thefts of BTC in physical attacks, such as one that occurred last April in Canada; or the blind date from the Tinder app that ended with a drugged man handing over his bitcoins.