Four members of a transnational ‘crypto-hacker’ gang were arrested in a series of raids across Buenos Aires Province on Monday, Argentina’s Federal Police (PFA) have confirmed.
The arrests came as part of an operation into the alleged theft of an estimated US$800,000 from cryptocurrency firm Buenbit.
The British-owned platform, active in three countries in Latin America and through which many Argentines can buy, sell and invest in cryptocurrencies, was among the companies attacked by the gang, the Noticias Argentinas news agency reported.
Police sources confirmed the money has since been diverted into a number of accounts and virtual wallets in Argentina, Spain and Italy.
The attack on Buenbit, and the corresponding investigation, was the catalyst which helped detectives identify the gang. But its alleged leader, a 19-teen year old from Bajo Flores, has since escaped to France with an unknown amount of the stolen funds, local outlets in Argentina reported. If authorities wish to capture the fleeing leader, an international warrant must be obtained to detain and deport him back to Argentina.
His four accomplices were taken into custody by the PFA yesterday during a series of raids in General Alvarado, Miramar and Lanús.
Police sources told the Infobae website that the Buenbit scam was targeted at the company’s loan system, which operates by granting virtual credits and transferring money.
The crypto-hackers allegedly used a bot designed to mass produce fabricated loan applications in order to request 100 loans, all using the same virtual wallet as a guarantee. This allowed the gang to take out hundreds of thousands of dollars in loans without providing proper collateral.
Buenbit filed a complaint with Judge Paula González last year. The investigation was then assigned to Prosecutor's Office No. 18 and the Specialised Cybercrime Prosecutor Unit, led by Horacio Azzolin. Yesterday’s arrests took place after the authorities were able to link together all members of the cyber gang.
Three of the four detainees were identified by Infobae as Claudio B, 55, a former employee of the Municipality of General Alvarado with a background in private security; Elias A, 25, a former employee of the Buenos Aires Province Security Ministry; and María H, 23, an employee of a local supermarket.
Alongside the detainees, the PFA seized 15 mobile phones, three tablets, debit cards, a notebook computer, a CPU, and several flash drives into custody for further investigation. The devices taken into custody have been used to help dismantle the crypto-hackers’ operation.
Federico Ogue, co-founder and CEO of Buebit, posted a statement on Twitter last night: “The situation was due to a group of users who carried out fraud, something unfortunately common and everyday for all companies in the fintech worlds.”
“The fraud had no impact on our customers’ balances or the company’s operations,” Ogue reassured his clients.