Criminals Haul $45,000 in BTC as Police Covert Op Backfires

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In Brief
  • Online money laundering sting backfires as targeted criminals steal $45K from police BTC wallet.

  • Inquiry into police procedure highlighted gaps that led to the failure to protect funds.

  • Further criminal investigation has failed to pinpoint culprits' whereabouts or identities.

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The Trust Project is an international consortium of news organizations building standards of transparency.

Police in New Zealand have reported that criminals stole $45,000 worth of bitcoin (BTC) during an online covert operation.



Reports indicate that the detectives were conducting an undercover investigation into money laundering. However, during the operation, the criminals they were pursuing made off with $45,000 worth of BTC. The New Zealand police purchased the funds especially for the money laundering operation.

Since the theft, police in New Zealand have reportedly carried out two further inquiries. It also sparked an internal investigation into police procedure. Reports indicate that this investigation highlighted procedural gaps by which the police failed to protect the money. It also made recommendations for how the procedure may be improved and updated. The changes are reportedly currently still under consultation.



The police also carried out a further criminal investigation into the theft itself. However, at time of press, the inquiry has not turned up any information about the money’s whereabouts or the thieves’ identities. According to reports, Detective Inspector Stuart Mills, from the New Zealand Police’s National Organized Crime Group, believes the criminals are based overseas. He also said they were likely part of a wider fraud operation.

This revelation comes days after reports of another cryptocurrency theft; in this case amounting to $250,000 worth. A former employee of the international crypto exchange Cryptopia, based in Christchurch, pleaded guilty to stealing the quarter-million, as reported on July 5. According to reports, the court convicted the defendant and remanded him on bail. He will return to court in October for sentencing.

New Zealand embracing CBDC idea

Recent reports revealed that New Zealand’s central bank has begun consulting on improving its current systems for cash and currency. Including considerations over a central bank digital currency (CBDC).

The Reserve Bank of New Zealand issued a notice on July 7, in which assistant governor Christian Hawkesby stated the first of the consultations will be directed towards “the broad concepts of money and cash stewardship.”

The notice also alluded to a series of money and cash issues papers, which the Reserve Bank will release for feedback between August and November this year.

Assistant Governor Hawkesby went on to say “Subsequent papers will look at the potential for a Central Bank Digital Currency, to work alongside cash as government-backed money, issues arising from new electronic money forms including crypto assets (such as bitcoin) and stable coins (such as proposed by a Facebook-led consortium), and how the cash system might need to change to continue to meet the needs of users.”


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Dale Hurst is a journalist, presenter, and novelist. Before joining the Be In Crypto team, he was an editor and senior journalist at a news, lifestyle and human-interest magazine in the UK. Cryptocurrency was one of the first subjects he specialized in when first going freelance in 2018, reviewing exchanges and analysing lawsuits.

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