Authorities in Israel have recently arrested two brothers involved in cryptocurrency related phishing schemes, and the 2016 Bitfinex hack that saw the cryptocurrency exchange lose about $70 million worth of cryptocurrency.
According to Israeli news outlet Posta, the two brothers from Jerusalem were arrested a few days ago for conducting cryptocurrency-related phishing schemes, through which they reportedly managed to make millions of dollars.
While some news outlets report the brothers managed to make as much as $100 million stealing cryptocurrency, financial news outlet Finance Magnates reached out to the Israeli police and was told the sum is much lower, around the “tens of millions of dollars.”
The arrested Israelis, Eli Gigi and his younger brother Assaf Gigi, are said to have created fake websites identical to those of legitimate cryptocurrency services and businesses – including of exchanges – to trick users into trying to login through them.
— CryptoGlobe (@CryptoGlobeInfo) June 12, 2019
The brothers spread links to these fake websites through Telegram groups and other trading and cryptocurrency-oriented platforms, effectively tricking users. Once they got users’ login credentials, they transferred the funds to their own wallets.
Eli is said to have been a graduate of an elite technological unit of the IDF, an organization that recruits youth who demonstrate “outstanding” academic capabilities. Police have been investigating the Israeli brothers since 2017 and say it the case could see new developments being unraveled soon.
Alleged Bitfinex Hack Involvement
While phishing techniques are believed to be the hackers’ main way of stealing funds, other schemes have been associated with them. Israeli news outlets report both were connected to the 2016 Bitfinex hack, in which around 120,000 bitcoin, then worth over $70 million, were stolen from the exchange.
Security researchers have found the funds were moved out of Bitfinex from users’ segregated wallets, which could have been the result of a widely successful phishing scheme. Israeli police detailed the victims were mostly from the EU and the U.S.
The case, authorities added, is being investigated by “police cyber units in several countries,” and it’s currently unclear whether the brothers had accomplices. The multi-national operation’s goal, it’s said, is to help retrieve stolen funds.
A news report this morning in Israeli website @ynetnews on 2 brothers arrested by Israeli police for stealing ~$100k in BTC from victims.
No big deal right? Except police says it later found evidence they also stole $100M from Bitfinex users! Is this about the 2016 hack??? pic.twitter.com/uTtAiDNcLJ
— Udi Wertheimer [#irresponsible] (@udiWertheimer) June 23, 2019
The Israeli news outlet Posta reports police managed to get a cryptocurrency wallet in Eli Gigi’s house, but notes it had an amount “significantly lower” than the brothers have allegedly. Authorities also found they had “luxury cars.”
As CryptoGlobe covered, bitcoins associated with the 2016 Bitfinex hack have recently moved, as 172.54 BTC went from the Bitfinex hack wallet to an unknown address. At the time, Bitfinex itself revealed it had nothing to do with the transactions, which make up a very small amount of the stolen funds.
This means the transaction could’ve been Israeli police seizing the funds within the cryptocurrency found in Eli Gigi’s house. It’s worth noting that authorities in the U.S., in November of last year, retrieved a small percentage of the stolen BTC.