israeli police seize bitcoin in money laundering investigation

Israeli resident Hilmi Git has been officially indicted for a massive money laundering scheme conducted within Israel. Hebron’s cybercrime division issued the indictment in response to the revelation that the businessman allegedly used nearly 900 separate credit cards for thousands of fraud-related transactions that resulted in the laundering of money using the decentralized currency Bitcoin.

Tel Aviv district courts will be presiding over the complex legal trial. The indictment argues that, over ten years, Git laundered over $8,000,000 in Bitcoin, and that fraudulent transactions made by Git equal over $280,000. The Bitcoins were confiscated by the government and will remain in their hands for the duration of the likely lengthy trial.

The criminal enterprise was far larger than this single man, however. Prosecutors claim that a sophisticated network of criminals and credit cards helped to facilitate the multi-million dollar scheme. At the head of the operation sat Git, who allegedly provided the instructions necessary for his criminal associates to launder the money, conduct the illegal transactions, and steal users’ information as they visited his multiple websites.

Multiple Criminal Schemes

Git’s sophisticated operation made use of several different scamming efforts to amass the insane amount of funds that eventually ended up in many of his multiple bank accounts. The scams were not always the pinnacle of intelligence and social engineering, however.

One of his operations functioned by offering to sell customers a cheap mobile phone, but then blocked them from the website and severed all ties upon being paid for the nonexistent phone. If that wasn’t bad enough, he would then send fake messages from the user’s online profiles, which he had gained access to, urging their friends and family to use the service for themselves.

Git also made significant money from offering to sell credit and debit cards to clients on his sites, even going to far as to publish informational guides on how to steal credit cards information, conceal the source of ill-gotten gains, and commit various types of fraud.

Unremitting Criminality

Perhaps most interestingly, Git seems to be completely open about his involvement in the criminal underground. One local Israeli news source reported that the indictment quoted Git as saying that he would take money from “anywhere [I] can.”

While under the hold of the state, Israeli authorities are petitioning to prevent the criminal from gaining access to the internet or posting any kind of bail. They remarked that allowing him to access the net would enable him to “continue carrying out” his massive criminal operation.

A Reality Check for Israel

This case is a significant one for Israel, because it is the first time the country has seized Bitcoin funds during a criminal investigation. Other world governments have been confronted with a similar problem, the U.S. authorities supposedly seizing over 500 Bitcoin in their own drug investigation in early January. Similarly, Finland seized 2000 Bitcoins in February from a suspected dark web drug dealer.

Moving forward, the case is likely to inspire stricture governmental scrutiny of Bitcoin, which is often used as a method of anonymously laundering illegal money.

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