Bitfinex lost 119,754 bitcoins in the August 2016 hack
The US Justice Department announced on Tuesday that its law enforcement agents had seized Bitcoin worth over $3.6 billion, linked to the 2016 hack on Bitfinex.
Law enforcement agents had also arrested two people in connection to the attack, the DOJ added in a statement.
Ilya Lichtenstein, 34, and his wife Heather Morgan, 31, were arrested in New York on Tuesday morning and were scheduled to appear in court later in the afternoon.
The couple allegedly stole 119,754 BTC during the hack and laundered around 25,000 bitcoins from the loot between 2016 and 2022.
According to the Justice Department, investigators following the money trail zeroed in on the couple on 31 January after meticulously combing through thousands of addresses suspect to be linked to the hack.
Early this month, the agents seized over 94,000 bitcoin valued at around $3.6 billion at the time.
Lichtenstein and Morgan face charges of conspiracy to launder the seized BTC, whose value five years ago was about $71 million. With the steady surge in Bitcoin’s price, that value has skyrocketed into billions.
The couple also faces charges of trying to defraud the US government.
Bitfinex has said it worked with DOJ agents in the pursuit of the stolen cryptocurrency and hopes that the government will return the funds.
In a statement published Tuesday after the news of the arrest and seizure, Bitfinex said it’s its “right” to receive the BTC. It plans to release an 18-month timeline if it receives the crypto assets, with a program to repurchase and burn UNUS SED LEO tokens.
According to the exchange, 80% of all the returned BTC would be used to complete the repurchase.