Making sense of the Bitfinex Bitcoin billions

It’s the Netflix script that wrote itself. A yarn so uncommon, it’s terrified the crypto neighborhood; an industry conversant in apparent suicides in Spanish penitentiary cells and nonfungible token auctions for unnecessary rappers.

The teach entails the US Department of Justice (DoJ), a crypto change with a checkered history, a rapper-cum-Forbes magazine writer, a voucher to take dangle of a brand new PlayStation, an occasional magician and $4 billion price of Bitcoin (BTC).

The alleged Bitfinex hack money launderers possess saved the earn enraptured since the elevated-than-life yarn emerged final week. It’s no wonder that Netflix has no doubt presented that they’re going to elevate the yarn to life.

In essence, a zany rapper who advises companies on social engineering and tackling cybercriminals named Heather Morgan and her cybersecurity specialist husband Ilya Lichtenstein were caught attempting to launder funds stolen from the 2016 Bitfinex hack. Funds were laundered thru the decide of video games consoles, Uber rides and assorted reward vouchers.

Morgan in a Lower East Aspect Ny art studio. Source: Twitter

Despite their nerdy credentials, per the DoJ checklist, rules enforcement obtained get entry to to the couple’s non-public keys thru a cloud storage legend. Yes, they saved their non-public keys to upwards of $3 billion in Bitcoin within the cloud.

But, with so many unanswered questions and peculiar conditions, the news of the Bitfinex billions has left Twitter scrambling for puzzle objects while armchair investigators possess their work reduce out for them, developing with even more uncommon theories.

Amid wild theories and some questionable reporting, this article intends to put out the established info surrounding the Bitfinex hack and what it skill now that the DoJ is now holding 90,000 Bitcoin.

Bitfinex hack 2016

The Hong Kong-essentially based mostly cryptocurrency change Bitfinex became as soon as hacked six years within the past to the tune of $70 million. The assault became as soon as snappy: In correct two Bitcoin blocks spanning circa 20 minutes, Bitfinex wallets under the custody of Bitgo were drained of all their funds. In complete, thieves stole 120,000 Bitcoin, now price over $4 billion.

As one amongst the largest hacks in Bitcoin history, the hack precipitated a pointy selloff and the payment per Bitcoin slumped to around $500. It’s valuable to negate that the money laundering couple, Morgan and Lichtenstein, aren’t accused of hacking the change, the hackers are quiet at astronomical.

The Bitfinex workers worked tirelessly per the hack, devising an innovative solution to restore investor self belief. First and major, Bitfinex concocted and launched BFX tokens and “recovery rights tokens” (RRT). Whereas tokenization is same old in 2022, in 2016–17, sooner than the preliminary coin offering mania, the issuance of tokens became as soon as radical.

The tokens served as an IOU to customers tormented by the hack and could well be redeemed for money or exchanged for iFinex capital stock (iFinex being Bitfinex’s parent company).

Designed within the kind of technique that Bitfinex could presumably well later grab attend the tokens from users or supply shares within the platform to compensate, the BFX and RRT solution saved Bitfinex liquid and presumably “compensated investors faster than old complaints.”

By April 2017, Bitfinex recovered sufficient funds to shroud or reimburse all users tormented by the hack eight months prior. Erik Voorhees known as the recapitalization “F*cking Amazing,” Bitcoin podcaster Peter McCormack described the strategy as “socializing the losses.”

The hack and subsequent quasi-fund recovery are in stark distinction to the immoral Mt. Gox hack of 2014, as Mt.Gox creditors change are absolute top now discussing refund plans.


Rapid forward five years, and while a couple of of the Bitfinex Bitcoin moved several times and became as soon as effectively laundered over time, rules enforcement and blockchain enthusiasts watched the wallets like a hawk.

Given the transparency of the Bitcoin blockchain, the hacked money were blacklisted from crypto exchanges which implies that laundering the money would impart sophisticated.

90,000 Bitcoin, roughly $3.6 billion, moved in early February. The DoJ became as soon as within the attend of the switch and the protagonists, Morgan and Lichtenstein, sprung into the spotlight. The DoJ’s assertion explained that:

“Special agents purchased get entry to to recordsdata within a web-based legend managed by Lichtenstein. These recordsdata contained the personal keys required to get entry to the digital wallet that staunch now obtained the funds stolen from Bitfinex, and allowed particular agents to lawfully exercise and get better higher than 94,000 bitcoin that had been stolen from Bitfinex.”

Which skill, the DoJ now has 94,000 Bitcoin in its possession. The repercussions of the U.S. acquiring so well-known Bitcoin are wide reaching from causing a seemingly Bitcoin price fracture to questions concerning when, if and the put the funds shall be returned.

LEO token

Here is the put the Netflix saga takes a breather and hypothesis takes over. The retrieved Bitcoin remains in a wallet, and while the money-laundering trial unravels, the token UNUS SED LEO (LEO) has mooned while commentators theorize on the stolen Bitcoin.

As a runt share to the Bitfinex puzzle but a astronomical section of the broader Bitfinex saga image, the LEO token is one other example of financial ingenuity. In 2019, the Bitfinex parent company iFinex listed LEO as an change utility token.

The token granted traders decrease bills and solved considerations referring to to iFinex’ payments processors. Crucially, the token’s 2019 white paper stated:

“An quantity equal to on the very least 80% of recovered earn funds from the BitFinex hack shall be old to repurchase and burn prominent LEO tokens within 18 months from the date of recovery.”

In a bulletin made final week, Bitfinex backed the white paper claim, declaring, “Bitfinex will, within 18 months of the date it receives that recovery, exercise an quantity equal to 80% of the recovered earn funds to repurchase and burn prominent UNUS SED LEO tokens.”

Indeed, traders are banking on these funds returning to Bitfinex. The LEO token has soared, reaching new highs and leaping over 50%.

However, while Bitfinex would be assured of bettering the hacked Bitcoin, the DoJ has not disclosed the following steps.

The DoJ’s a hodler now?

As stated, the stolen Bitcoin remains in a Department of Justice wallet. The blockchain wallet address holds 94,632 Bitcoin, with the final deposit obtained on Feb. 11.

A wallet containing over 94,000 Bitcoin in 2022 is well-known: MicroStrategy owns 125,000 Bitcoin and Tesla holds 43,200. We can absolute top exercise that the DoJ has better opsec than the alleged money-launderers and cannot retailer the keys within the cloud.

The Bitcoin Treasuries Twitter joked that they would add it to their checklist of Bitcoin treasuries, implying that the US would change into a holder of the retrieved funds.

Binance CEO Changpeng Zhao asked, “if they [Bitfinex] get the BTC attend, how ought to quiet they chop up that with LEO holder, or the these that took a loss to just accumulate LEO on the time of the hack (after which sold LEO)?”

Did not possess time to analyze it in detail. 2 correct kind questions.

Did bitfinex lose or put money from the hack?

Within the occasion that they get the BTC attend, how ought to quiet they chop up that with LEO holders, or the these that took a loss to just accumulate LEO on the time of the hack (after which sold LEO)?

— CZ Binance (@cz_binance) February 8, 2022

In an interview on the WAGMI podcast, Paolo Ardoino, the executive skills officer of Bitfinex, sounded assured about regaining the funds. He acknowledged they are “actively working on returning them (the funds) safely,” along side that it could well presumably well take some time.

Ardoino wired the importance of “giving attend to the neighborhood” and reiterated as soon as again that Bitfinex will exercise 80% of the funds to take dangle of attend LEO — on the opposite hand it is not prone to be a “market grab.”

A securities fraud and funding loss lawyer David Silver acknowledged that “Bitfinex goes to fight like hell to exercise the money for themselves.”

Within the atomize, even supposing, he added, “the gov’t will administer the redistribution.” In a boon for privacy, the authorities could presumably well exercise the replacement upon returning the funds to name and consequently tax the distinctive Bitcoin holders.

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