Tokyo police arrested two men on Wednesday for alleged possession of NEM, a cryptocurrency, that they knew was stolen in a massive cyberattack on a Japanese startup in 2018, according to investigative sources.
The Metropolitan Police Department arrested a doctor in his 30s from Hokkaido and a company executive in his 30s from Osaka Prefecture for the suspected dealing in crime proceeds, a violation of a law targeted at organized crime.
According to the sources, the two suspects knew that the cryptocurrency they acquired was part of the ¥58 billion worth of NEM stolen from the cryptocurrency exchange operator Coincheck Inc. on Jan. 26, 2018. In the incident, almost all NEM owned by Coincheck’s clients was fraudulently accessed and stolen.
The MPD suspects that the two traded other currencies such as Bitcoin for the stolen NEM in February and March 2018.
The arrests are the first linked to the Coincheck attack. The MPD set up a task force staffed by some 100 investigators to specifically probe the incident.
According to the Tokyo police’s cybercrime unit, the two suspects obtained the stolen NEM on a website on the dark web, a highly anonymous internet space often used for money laundering and other crimes. The website claimed that it would exchange other cryptocurrencies for NEM at a preferential rate.
Almost all the NEM stolen in the Coincheck hack was exchanged for Bitcoin or Lightcoin, then was dispersed among over 13,000 cryptocurrency accounts. Some of the NEM obtained by the two suspects was remitted to an online cryptocurrency exchange.
The cybercrime unit identified the suspects after inquiries to the exchange operator. It conducted an on-site search in November last year.
The unit is continuing investigations of others who may have acquired NEM from the website.