The corporate regulator is trying to get its hands on a hidden bitcoin wallet worth $20 million as it tracks down money that alleged superannuation fraudsters took from investors.
Last month, the Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC) moved to shut down Gold Coast company A One Multi which it alleges was claiming to offer investors annual returns of more than 20 per cent on their superannuation.
Investors gave A One Multi some $25 million through the self-managed superannuation fund scheme of which its operators, Aryn Hala and Heidi Walters, allegedly spent nearly $6 million buying property, luxury cars, and cryptocurrency.
ASIC successfully went to the Federal Court to get injunctions that put A One Multi into receivership, froze Hala and Walters’ accounts, and restricted the pair’s travel while the regulator investigated.
Part of those court orders required Hala and Walters disclose and provide all cryptocurrency to their company’s new administrators from KPMG.
As reported by the Sydney Morning Herald, ASIC and KPMG initially struggled to find all of Hala’s bitcoin purchases and that local exchange CoinSpot – which they understood Hala had used to buy and sell cryptocurrency – said neither Hala, Walters, nor their company A One Multi had accounts with the exchange.
Armed with bank statements proving Hala had made transactions on CoinSpot, ASIC was able to recover his account. But it was already empty.
Hala’s CoinSpot account had reportedly received nearly 376 bitcoins which is worth just under $30 million today, according to CoinGecko.
Hala had cashed out an estimated $1 million of bitcoin leaving ASIC scratching its head over what the Federal Court estimates to be a bitcoin stash worth “between $7 million to $22 million”.
Investigators believe Hala transferred his cryptocurrency to a physical cold storage wallet such as those made by Trezor or Ledger.
Exchanges like CoinSpot typically provide users with custodial wallets, meaning they hold a wallet’s private keys which are tied to user accounts.
Cold storage wallets, on the other hand, puts control of the private keys into the cryptocurrency owner’s hands and are naturally harder to track down since they need to be physically discovered and are usually small USB devices.
A CoinSpot spokesperson said the company has been fully cooperative with ASIC.
“CoinSpot’s compliance arrangements for complying with anti-money laundering laws reflect industry best-practice and its security policies and processes have not been affected by any of the events involving this individual customer,” they said.