$6.2m of digital cryptocurrency, Bitcoin, was seized by police.
The lawyer of a Hamilton man who had cryptocurrencies worth millions seized by police is feeling bullish they will win the civil proceeding.
Police said that $6.2 million in various cryptocurrencies and $800,000 in New Zealand currency was seized in June from a Hamilton-based operator of what they believe is a movie pirate website.
It’s the largest amount of digital coin seized by New Zealand authorities. Proceedings so far have been in civil courts and focussed on allegations money laundering. No criminal charges have been laid.
Lawyer Truc Tran said his client Jaron McIvor will fight the seizure.
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“He’s a really good guy and we’re really keen to defend this type of proceeding and this is all new territory for the police so they are quite keen to go ahead with it,” Tran, a former corwn prosecutor said. “Theres no way they’re going to stop.”
However it could take years before police finalised their investigation.
Detective Senior Sergeant Keith Kay of the Asset Recovery Unit said in a statement that “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”.
By order of the High Court, police will sell the digital coin to retain its current value.
While McIvor could have fought the decision he consented to sales as “fighting it would have shown our cards,” Tran said.
The case will be heard under the balance of probabilities, which means police will present their case to the judge and must prove their’s is the version of events most likely to be true.
However the value of cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin has been on the rise in the past few decades, and McIvor could still miss out on significant financial gains if the case goes his way, Tran said. If successful, it was likely McIvor would seek recompense for lost value, Tran said.
“I know Bitcoin’s going to go up in value, it doesn’t matter how it’s volatile at the moment, it’s eventually going to go up in value.
“This is all new to the police so I think they’re just feeling their way around in terms of money laundering with cryptocurrency.
“I’m pretty confident that when we get to the hearing that there is a good chance of success for Jaron.”
Police were tipped off by the US Inland Revenue Service in 2016.
Police said the operation is thought to have been using international money transfer services including PayPal and Stripe to send money between Vietnam, New Zealand, Canada, and the US.
Assistant Commissioner of the Investigations, Serious and Organised Crime division Richard Chambers, said the operation demonstrated “the capability of our investigators to prevent and respond to cyber-crime and money laundering, which are often unbounded by geography”.
Police seized a further $377,000 in New Zealand currency and $472,000 in cryptocurrency from someone they say was an associate of McIvor in November.