New Zealand police have seized nearly $6 million in cryptocurrency from a man who allegedly operated a pirated movie streaming website.
Thirty-one year-old programmer, Jaron David McIvor, handed over the keys to his cryptocurrency wallets when police knocked on the door of his home in the New Zealand city of Hamilton.
Police also seized $750,000 from McIvor’s bank account.
One of McIvor’s associates had $450,000 in cryptocurrency and $350,000 in money possessed by authorities.
McIvor had been running a website that allegedly hosted copyrighted films.
He had been allegedly using online services like Stripe and PayPal to transfer the proceeds to people in the US, Canada, Vietnam, and New Zealand.
According to Detective Senior Sergeant, Keith Kay, McIvor’s alleged transfer of proceeds from a copyright-infringing website is classed as money laundering.
“Introducing illicitly-obtained funds into New Zealand constitutes money laundering and police will thoroughly investigate and restrain the assets of those who undertake such activity,” Kay said.
PayPal reported suspicious activity to the US Inland Revenue Service (IRS) which was able to trace the money back to McIvor.
“New Zealand works closely with international law enforcement agencies to strengthen New Zealand’s anti money laundering approach,” said the Richard Chambers from the New Zealand Police National Organised Crime Group.
"This outcome reflects the importance of these international partnerships and it also demonstrates the capability of our investigators to prevent and respond to cyber-crime and money laundering, which are often unbounded by geography.”
McIvor has not, however, been criminally charged with money laundering.
Instead, the seizure of his assets is a civil case made under the Criminal Proceeds Recovery Act.
The final decision about whether to uphold the forfeiture of his cryptocurrency is to be determined by the New Zealand High Court at a later date.
Meanwhile, the High Court has ordered the sale of McIvor’s cryptocurrencies in order to maintain their value, according to the New Zealand Herald.
Cryptocurrency prices took a nosedive last week with bitcoin now sitting around the $10,000 (US$6,800) mark – far below its $15,000 (US$11,000) spike back in June.
Depending on the timing of the High Court’s sale, and its final verdict, McIvor’s could find his assets worth considerably less than when they were taken by authorities.