US probes how $550 million vanished in hack after FTX bankruptcy


American prosecutors are investigating an alleged cybercrime that drained more than $US370 million ($550 million) out of FTX just hours after the cryptocurrency exchange filed for bankruptcy last month.

The US Department of Justice has launched a criminal probe into the stolen assets that is separate from the fraud case against FTX co-founder Sam Bankman-Fried, according to a person familiar with the case. US authorities have managed to freeze some of the stolen funds, the person confirmed. However, the frozen assets only represent a fraction of the entire loot.

Who drained $US372 million from FTX just hours after the company collapsed? Founder Sam Bankman-Fried has suggested it was an inside job.Credit:AP

It is unclear whether the infiltration was an inside job, as Bankman-Fried suggested in interviews before his arrest, or the work of an opportunistic hacker keen to exploit the vulnerabilities of a crumbling company. The conduct could amount to a charge in connection with computers fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.

The amount stolen is considerably less than the billions of dollars Bankman-Fried is accused of misusing while he was at the helm of FTX. Authorities say the 30-year-old founder, who is currently on bail and living in California, fraudulently raised $US1.8 billion from investors and used FTX funds to wage high-risk bets at hedge fund Alameda Research and to cover personal expenses.

Spokespersons for the Department of Justice and Manhattan US attorney’s office declined to comment.

FTX’s new chief executive, John J Ray III, revealed on November 12 that there had been “unauthorised access” to FTX assets a day earlier, the same day the estate had filed for bankruptcy.

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The investigation is being led by the DOJ’s National Cryptocurrency Enforcement Team, a network of prosecutors focused on digital asset investigations, a person familiar with the case said. The team is working with Manhattan federal prosecutors in charge of the sweeping criminal investigation that led to the arrest of Bankman-Fried this month.

The amount siphoned from FTX by the unknown actor was about $US372 million, according to bankruptcy filings. Authorities managed to freeze funds on certain platforms because those outlets cooperated with law enforcement, the person confirmed. That is not always the case, especially with offshore exchanges.



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