Cryptocurrency confiscation order for hacker

Out-Law News | 28 Aug 2019 | 8:51 am | 1 min. read

A man who profited from selling personal financial data on the dark web has been ordered to repay more than £900,000 of cryptocurrency he had accumulated.

The Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) said 27 year-old Grant West, from Ashcroft Caravan Park in Kent in England, acquired the data from carrying out cyber attacks on more than 100 businesses, including Argos, Sainsbury's and Uber.

A confiscation order against West was secured under the Proceeds of Crime Act against West at Southwark Crown Court in London on 23 August, the MPS said. West was earlier jailed for more than 10 years after a two-year investigation by the MPS' cyber crime unit. He pled guilty to 10 charges brought against him including conspiracy to defraud, possession of criminal property, unauthorised modification of computer material and a number of drugs offences.

The police investigation discovered that West stored personal financial information belonging to more than 100,000 people on his girlfriend's laptop and found a further 78 million usernames and passwords, as well as 63,000 credit and debit card details, on an SD card recovered from West's home.

The MPS said West had completed more than 47,000 sales on the dark web and that one phishing scam he had perpetuated cost takeaway company approximately £200,000.

Victims of West's actions will be compensated for the damage he caused them from the near-£923,000 worth of cryptocurrency that has been confiscated from West, the MPS said.

"This case is a prime example of how criminals are investing the proceeds of their crime in cryptocurrency, which remain unregulated in the UK," said civil fraud and asset recovery expert Jennifer Craven of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law. "Whilst the FCA has warned about the major dangers of unregulated bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, mostly because of major concerns regarding market integrity, fraud, manipulation and internal dealing in the digital asset markets, they are an attractive investment tool for fraudsters because of their anonymous nature, and the challenges faced by the civil and criminal authorities in seizing and tracing them."

"The landscape is changing, however, as both civil and criminal specialists devise ways to trace, freeze and confiscate the sums accumulated. In particular the High Court in England and Wales has shown that it is willing to grant civil remedies such as freezing injunctions and disclosure orders to overcome any obstacles in bringing fraudsters to account. Where a victim of fraud suspects that a fraudster has invested the proceeds of the fraud into cryptocurrency, the best way to proceed is to act quickly and obtain specialist advice so as to consider the legal options available and devise an effective recovery strategy," she said.

Detective chief inspector Kirsty Goldsmith who heads up the MPS' cyber crime unit said the force is "committed to ensuring that individuals who are committing criminality on the dark web are identified, prosecuted and their criminal assets are seized".