Tokyo, March 11 (Jiji Press)–Tokyo police arrested two men on Wednesday for allegedly obtaining NEM, a cryptocurrency, that they knew was stolen in a cyberattack in 2018, according to investigative sources.
The Metropolitan Police Department arrested 30-year-old doctor Takayoshi Doi from the city of Obihiro in the northernmost prefecture of Hokkaido and 39-year-old company executive Masaki Kitamoto from the western Japan city of Osaka for suspected collection of crime proceeds, a violation of the law on the punishment of organized crimes.
According to the sources, the two suspects knew that the cryptocurrency they acquired was part of 58 billion yen’s worth of NEM stolen from the cryptocurrency exchange operator Coincheck Inc. on Jan. 26, 2018. In the incident, almost all NEM owned by Coincheck’s clients was fraudulently accessed and stolen.
The MPD suspects that the two traded other currencies such as Bitcoin for the stolen NEM in February and March 2018. Kitamoto is seen to have acquired more than 2 billion yen’s worth of NEM at the time of the transaction.
Kitamoto has admitted the charges, while Doi has refused to speak to investigators, according to the sources.
The arrests are the first linked to the large-scale cryptocurrency theft. The MPD set up an investigative task force for the incident, staffed by up to some 100 investigators.
The police will continue to investigate the hackers behind the cyberattack on charges of violating the law on the prohibition of unauthorized computer access.
According to the Tokyo police’s cybercrimes unit, the two suspects obtained the stolen NEM on a website on the dark web, a highly anonymous internet space often used for money laundering and other crimes. The website claimed that it would exchange other cryptocurrencies for NEM at a preferential rate.
Almost all the NEM stolen in the Coincheck hack was exchanged for Bitcoin or Lightcoin, then dispersed among over 13,000 cryptocurrency accounts. Some of the NEM obtained by the two suspects was remitted to an online cryptocurrency exchange.
The cybercrimes unit identified the suspects after inquiries to the exchange operator. It conducted an on-site search in November last year.
The unit is continuing investigations of others who may have acquired NEM from the website.