Cryptopia ex-staffer admits stealing $229,000 in crypto from NZ exchange
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A former employee of the shuttered New Zealand-based cryptocurrency exchange Cryptopia has pled guilty to stealing 13 bitcoin from its wallets.
The man, who has interim name suppression, admitted two theft charges in Christchurch District Court on Monday, Stuff.co.nz reported.
The employee theft wasn’t related to the massive Cryptopia theft in January 2019, when more than $23 million in crypto was stolen – 15 per cent of Cryptopia’s supplies.
After that, the company was placed into liquidation, a process managed by accounting firm Grant Thornton that is still ongoing. All the workers’ contracts were terminated.
But at some point during his employment, the former staffer had made an unauthorised copy of the private keys to Cryptopia’s various wallets – a lapse that shows the exchange’s shoddy approach to security.
Those keys gave him access to in excess of NZ$100 million ($93 million) in crypto, Stuff.co.nz reported, citing a summary of facts presented in court.
“The defendant admitted that he was frustrated with Cryptopia but also motivated by the belief that he could get away with the theft as he thought nobody would ever check the old deposit wallets,” the summary of facts said.
But when an associate told him last year that Grant Thornton was checking those old deposit wallets, he apparently got scared.
He emailed two Grant Thornton liquidators admitting the theft of the 13 bitcoin, which at the time were worth about $220,000, as well as stealing about $9,000 worth of another crypto.
He asked that he wouldn’t be charged or accused of wrongdoing, but police got involved.
The man was convicted and remanded on bail until sentencing on October 20.
Cryptopia had 37 staff and over 2.4 million customers in 183 countries when it was “hacked” – although many believe the theft was an inside job.
Grant Thornton has opened a claims portal so users with funds on the exchange might be able to get some of them back.