Six people have been arrested following a lengthy investigation into the theft of more than £21 million in cryptocurrency.
Five men and one woman were arrested during the joint operation between British and Dutch police services. Three men were arrested at properties in Bath and Staverton in the UK, while others were caught simultaneously in Amsterdam and Rotterdam.
All three South West-based men were arrested on suspicion of committing computer misuse and money laundering offences, according to the South West Regional Cyber Crime Unit (SW RCCU).
Officers from the cybercrime unit coordinated with Dutch police, Europol, Eurojust and the National Crime Agency (NCA) as part of the operation.
The six individuals are suspected of being involved in a largescale criminal operation which targeted people’s Bitcoin tokens. The operation is believed to have affected more than 4,000 people in 12 countries – and Europol says the number of victims continues to grow.
This criminal enterprise employed a technique known as ‘typosquatting’, where a well-known cryptocurrency exchange was ‘spoofed’ – or recreated to imitate a legitimate site – to gain access to a victim’s bitcoin wallet; which enabled the group to steal login details and funds.
Detective Inspector Louise Boyce, from the SW RCCU, said: “Today’s warrants were the result of 14 months of investigation by my team, closely assisted by colleagues in Europol, Eurojust, the Joint Cybercrime Action Taskforce (J-CAT) and the NCA.
“The investigation has grown from a single report of £17,000 worth of bitcoin stolen from a Wiltshire-based victim to a current estimate of more than four thousand victims in at least 12 countries. We expect that number to grow.”
Detective Inspector Boyce said that a “large number” of devices, equipment and “valuable assets” were seized during the police operation, adding that on this occasion, the Metropolitan Police provided two ‘cyber dogs’ for use during the raid. The police dogs played “key roles in search suspects’ homes,” Boyce said.