By Lewis Rogers
A UK company has been linked with the laundering of 650,000 stolen bitcoins, this equates to £4.5billion. the bitcoins were taken by hackers from the Tokyo-based bitcoin exchange Mt Gox, this has left over 10,000 customers empty handed. Mark Karpeles, Mt Gox’s operator issued an apology to investors using the exchange and said he is co-operating fully with the investigation.
The company in question is a London-based firm named Always Efficient LLP, at this time it is not clear who is in control of this firm. A Russian national has been charged by the FBI for the laundering of the coins.
Mt Gox has been estimated to handle around 70% of the global bitcoin trade. The trade would allow customers to purchase crypto-currencies using their own money and would also allow customers to sell their crypto-currency for dollars, pounds and other international currencies.WizSec, a group of amateur investigators have found that the hackers had targeted Mt Gox. They had managed to systematically pick the pockets of users accounts and managing to stay undetected from Mt Gox for years. It was only until 2014 that, Mark Karpeles made the discovery that over 100,000 coins had gone missing. Customers found out for themselves when they were unable to withdraw their funds and the site collapsed. In an interview Karpeles described the discovery, saying
“It felt like… when you fall from a building and you see the ground getting closer, and you feel like you are about to die.”
Originally a mystery it is now known that almost half of the stolen coins had ended up on Mt Gox’s rival exchange BTC-e. The FBI described BTC-e as a hub for cyber-crime which helped launder money from hacks, including attacks using ransomware similar to the attacks against the NHS. BTC-e is claimed to be operated by the London-based firm Always Efficient LLP. The address of the firm is said to be located in east London, but the office is shared by multiple firms who are also considered to be involved with the laundering. It is thought that Always Efficient LLP is a shell company. Duncan Hames, of Transparency International, an anti-corruption group, said,
“People laundering money will set up a network of companies to create layers between the original crime and their attempts to then integrate the proceeds of their crime into the economy,”
He followed this up by saying,
“They simply enable a series of transactions to take place to create this distance and to obscure the trail of the proceeds of crime.”
New rules were put in place in 2016 to try and regulate these shell companies. These rules state that companies must produce a list of “persons with significant control” (PWSC). Always Efficient does not have a PWSC and the most recently listed was Alexander Buyanov who is a DJ at a Moscow nightclub who when asked about the company he said he knew nothing of the firm.