Vexed Tech Entrepreneur Turns Bitcoin Hacker, Steals €1M+ from Ex-Colleagues

Vexed Tech Entrepreneur Turns Bitcoin Hacker, Steals €1M+ from Ex-Colleagues

A French tech entrepreneur has been nabbed for allegedly stealing over 1 million euros in Bitcoin (BTC) from his former colleagues in what is purported to have been an “act of revenge.”

On Dec. 22, the unnamed man was indicted by a judge in Paris on charges of theft, money laundering and fraudulently accessing data processing systems, local newspaper Le Parisien reported on Dec. 28.

“Washing away the humiliation”

The suspect’s motivation for the theft — his spoils totaling 182 Bitcoin (BTC), worth ~$1.3 million by press time — is purported to have been a thirst to “wash away the humiliation” of his redundancy. 

The man is reportedly a former employee of a French tech start-up, one whose founding in 2013 Le Parisien attributes to a desire to join the “closed club of overvalued unicorns” in the 2.0 tech universe. 

Once differences over strategy in the firm exploded, the suspect found himself one of several executives to be summarily ousted from the venture. 

In the fallout, he is said to have left the country in pursuit of new projects — yet his emigration also involved a metamorphosis from one time digital entrepreneur to cryptocurrency hacker.

Between Dec. 2018 and Jan. 2019, the remaining executives — whose work ostensibly involves daily use of multiple cryptocurrencies — reportedly began to notice their Bitcoin holdings dwindling.

The suspect is alleged to have designed his theft so as to ensure that each fraudulent Bitcoin transaction was for an amount below the threshold that would trigger an internal security warning. This insider knowledge is reported to have been a red flag for investigators, alerting them to the likelihood that a current or former employee was behind the crime.

Arrested en route from Calvados

Once a complaint was lodged, investigators at the Gendarmerie’s cybercrime division (C3N) spent several months reconstructing the thefts. 

The cyber sleuths’ work culminated in a search warrant being issued for the suspect and his eventual arrest on Dec. 20, when he returned from Calvados to France. Pending trial, his computer and private keys have reportedly been seized, with a part of the ill-gotten funds since being transferred to AGRASC — France’s agency for assets confiscated in the course of criminal proceedings.

The prosecutor’s office in Paris is reportedly pushing for the suspect’s detention ahead of his trial; for the time being, he has been subjected to travel restrictions.

Blockchain-savvy investigators

Earlier this fall, Cointelegraph reported that the C3N had used smart contracts issued on the Tezos (XTZ) blockchain to buy cryptocurrency from Europol-allocated funds and cover its operational costs with those assets. The system employed by the C3N was alleged to be “the first smart contract ever developed by a public authority.”

Bitcoin Central