Criminals Demand $10 Million in Monero (XMR) in Norwegian Kidnapping Case

Avi Rosten

The wife of a wealthy Norwegian businessman has been kidnapped, and those responsible are reportedly asking for the 9million EUR (10 million USD) ransom to be paid in privacy coin Monero (XMR).

According to local newspaper VG, 68-year old Anne-Elisabeth Falkevik Hagen, the wife of Norwegian businessman Tom Hagen, has been missing for ten weeks, since October 31st of last year.

Police have so far kept the investigation into her disappearance under wraps according to VG, because threats were made regarding the involvement of the police and media. The report also explains that Norwegian police have widened the investigation to include Interpol and Europol.

Tom Hagen has an estimated net worth of 1.7 billion NOK (c. 200m USD), and is ranked 172 on Norway’s rich list.

Bitcoin vs. Monero

The kidnappers' choice of Monero, a privacy coin which makes it very hard to trace transactions, may well signal a shift towards more anonymous forms of cryptocurrency crime, although bitcoin (a pseudonymous cryptocurrency) still seems to figure prominently in ransom demands.

This week saw kidnappers in South Africa demand 5 BTC (c. $20,000) for the release of a missing nine-year-old girl. Earlier in the month, a group of hackers calling themselves TheDarkOverlord demanded a ransom in bitcoin after claiming to have hacked a law firm handling insurance claims related to the September 11th attacks.

Interestingly, some have pointed out that the choice of Monero might in this case actually help law enforcement due to the fact that the $10m demanded represents around 1% of XMR’s market cap:

Chainalysis Launches Real-Time Suspicious Transaction Alerts for 15 Cryptocurrencies

Blockchain intelligence firm Chainalysis has introduced "suspicious cryptocurrency transaction alerts" in "Chainalysis Know Your Transaction (KYT)", its "real-time anti-money laundering (AML) compliance solution".

Chainalysis, which was founded in 2014 by Dr. Michael Gronager (the current Chief Executive Officer), Jan Moller (the current Chief Technology Officer), Jonathan Levin (the current Chief Operating Officer), is a company with two main products:

  • Chainalysis Reactor -- its investigation software suite
  • Chainalysis Kknow Your Transaction (KYT) -- its compliance software suite

Chainalysis KYT supports "real-time transaction screening"; "case management capabilities"; "enhanced due diligence"; and "KYT for token issuers".

In a press release published on its blog on Thursday (August 22), Chainalysis says that Chainalysis KYT's alerts are "designed to help cryptocurrency businesses and financial institutions mitigate exposure to regulatory and reputational risk by helping compliance teams focus on the most urgent activity and enforce compliance policies while better allocating resources."

John Dempsey, VP Product, Chainalysis, had this to say:

As lawmakers and regulators focus their attention on the industry, it is more critical than ever that cryptocurrency businesses demonstrate compliance best practices.

According to Chainalysis, this new feature results in alerts being generated "whenever a transfer involves a risky counterparty and crosses a value threshold." Alert levels (Severe, High, Medium, and Low) are "based on factors such as category, service, direct versus indirect exposure, direction of funds, and amount," and are available for all 15 cryptocurrencies that Chainalysis supports (including BTC, ETH, BCH, LTC, USDT, and DAI).

Michael Breu, Gemini's Chief Compliance Officer, also chose to comment on this announcement:

As a New York Trust company we are required to monitor transactions on and off our platform. Tools like KYT alerts, which provide real time and ongoing blockchain analysis, coupled with Gemini's own compliance policies, help us meet our regulatory obligations.

 

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