Making sense of the Bitfinex Bitcoin billions

It’s the Netflix script that wrote itself. A narrative so outlandish, it’s surprised the crypto group; an business accustomed to obvious suicides in Spanish jail cells and nonfungible token auctions for lifeless rappers.

The plot includes america Division of Justice (DoJ), a crypto alternate with a checkered historical past, a rapper-cum-Forbes journal author, a voucher to purchase a brand new PlayStation, an occasional magician and $4 billion value of Bitcoin (BTC).

The alleged Bitfinex hack cash launderers have saved the web enraptured because the larger-than-life story emerged final week. It’s no marvel that Netflix has truly introduced that they may deliver the story to life.

In essence, a zany rapper who advises corporations on social engineering and tackling cybercriminals named Heather Morgan and her cybersecurity specialist husband Ilya Lichtenstein have been caught attempting to launder funds stolen from the 2016 Bitfinex hack. Funds have been laundered by way of the acquisition of video games consoles, Uber rides and different present vouchers.

Morgan in a Decrease East Aspect Manhattan artwork studio. Supply: Twitter

Regardless of their nerdy credentials, in line with the DoJ report, legislation enforcement gained entry to the couple’s personal keys via a cloud storage account. Sure, they saved their personal keys to upwards of $3 billion in Bitcoin within the cloud.

However, with so many unanswered questions and weird circumstances, the information of the Bitfinex billions has left Twitter scrambling for puzzle items whereas armchair investigators have their work minimize out for them, arising with much more outlandish theories.

Amid wild theories and a few questionable reporting, this text intends to put out the established information surrounding the Bitfinex hack and what it means now that the DoJ is now holding 90,000 Bitcoin.

Bitfinex hack 2016

The Hong Kong-based cryptocurrency alternate Bitfinex was hacked six years in the past to the tune of $70 million. The assault was quick: In simply two Bitcoin blocks spanning circa 20 minutes, Bitfinex wallets beneath the custody of Bitgo have been drained of all their funds. In complete, thieves stole 120,000 Bitcoin, now value over $4 billion.

As one of many greatest hacks in Bitcoin historical past, the hack triggered a pointy selloff and the worth per Bitcoin slumped to round $500. It’s vital to notice that the cash laundering couple, Morgan and Lichtenstein, should not accused of hacking the alternate, the hackers are nonetheless at massive.

The Bitfinex workforce labored tirelessly in response to the hack, devising an modern resolution to revive investor confidence. Initially, Bitfinex concocted and launched BFX tokens and “restoration rights tokens” (RRT). Whereas tokenization is widespread in 2022, in 2016–17, earlier than the preliminary coin providing mania, the issuance of tokens was radical.

The tokens served as an IOU to clients affected by the hack and could possibly be redeemed for money or exchanged for iFinex capital inventory (iFinex being Bitfinex’s dad or mum firm).

Designed in such a means that Bitfinex may later purchase again the tokens from customers or provide shares within the platform to compensate, the BFX and RRT resolution saved Bitfinex liquid and probably “compensated traders sooner than conventional proceedings.”

By April 2017, Bitfinex recovered sufficient funds to cowl or reimburse all customers affected by the hack eight months prior. Erik Voorhees known as the recapitalization “F*cking Superb,” Bitcoin podcaster Peter McCormack described the method as “socializing the losses.”

The hack and subsequent quasi-fund restoration are in stark distinction to the notorious Mt. Gox hack of 2014, as Mt.Gox collectors alternate are solely now discussing refund plans.


Quick ahead 5 years, and whereas a few of the Bitfinex Bitcoin moved a number of instances and was successfully laundered over time, legislation enforcement and blockchain lovers watched the wallets like a hawk.

Given the transparency of the Bitcoin blockchain, the hacked cash have been blacklisted from crypto exchanges which means that laundering the cash would show troublesome.

90,000 Bitcoin, roughly $3.6 billion, moved in early February. The DoJ was behind the transfer and the protagonists, Morgan and Lichtenstein, sprung into the highlight. The DoJ’s assertion defined that:

“Particular brokers obtained entry to information inside a web-based account managed by Lichtenstein. These information contained the personal keys required to entry the digital pockets that instantly acquired the funds stolen from Bitfinex, and allowed particular brokers to lawfully seize and get better greater than 94,000 bitcoin that had been stolen from Bitfinex.”

Consequently, the DoJ now has 94,000 Bitcoin in its possession. The repercussions of the U.S. acquiring a lot Bitcoin are broad reaching from inflicting a possible Bitcoin worth crash to questions concerning when, if and the place the funds will likely be returned.

LEO token

That is the place the Netflix saga takes a breather and hypothesis takes over. The retrieved Bitcoin stays in a pockets, and whereas the money-laundering trial unravels, the token UNUS SED LEO (LEO) has mooned whereas commentators theorize on the stolen Bitcoin.

As a small piece to the Bitfinex puzzle however a big a part of the broader Bitfinex saga image, the LEO token is one other instance of economic ingenuity. In 2019, the Bitfinex dad or mum firm iFinex listed LEO as an alternate utility token.

The token granted merchants decrease charges and solved issues referring to iFinex’ funds processors. Crucially, the token’s 2019 white paper said:

“An quantity equal to not less than 80% of recovered internet funds from the BitFinex hack will likely be used to repurchase and burn excellent LEO tokens inside 18 months from the date of restoration.”

In a bulletin made final week, Bitfinex backed the white paper declare, stating, “Bitfinex will, inside 18 months of the date it receives that restoration, use an quantity equal to 80% of the recovered internet funds to repurchase and burn excellent UNUS SED LEO tokens.”

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

Nonetheless, whereas Bitfinex could also be assured of recovering the hacked Bitcoin, the DoJ has not disclosed the subsequent steps.

The DoJ’s a hodler now?

As said, the stolen Bitcoin stays in a Division of Justice pockets. The blockchain pockets tackle holds 94,632 Bitcoin, with the final deposit acquired on Feb. 11.

A pockets containing over 94,000 Bitcoin in 2022 is appreciable: MicroStrategy owns 125,000 Bitcoin and Tesla holds 43,200. We will solely assume that the DoJ has higher opsec than the alleged money-launderers and won’t retailer the keys within the cloud.

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

Binance CEO Changpeng Zhao asked, “in the event that they [Bitfinex] get the BTC again, how ought to they cut up that with LEO holder, or the individuals who took a loss to just accept LEO on the time of the hack (after which offered LEO)?”

In an interview on the WAGMI podcast, Paolo Ardoino, the chief expertise officer of Bitfinex, sounded assured about regaining the funds. He stated they’re “actively engaged on returning them (the funds) safely,” including that it might take a while.

Ardoino harassed the significance of “giving again to the group” and reiterated as soon as once more that Bitfinex will use 80% of the funds to purchase again LEO — however it’s unlikely to be a “market purchase.”

A securities fraud and funding loss lawyer David Silver said that “Bitfinex goes to combat like hell to maintain the cash for themselves.”

In the end, although, he added, “the gov’t will administer the redistribution.” In a boon for privateness, the federal government might use the chance upon returning the funds to establish and consequently tax the unique Bitcoin holders.