Faster Justice Needed for Crypto Offenders, Says South Korea’s Chief Prosecutor

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Written By Maya Cantina

A top South Korean prosecutor’s office says courts must deliver quicker justice to crypto offenders – with cases currently taking “too long” to process.

The comments came from Lee Jeong-ryeol, head of the crypto investigation unit with the Seoul Southern District Prosecutor’s Office, in an interview with the Hanguk Kyungjae newspaper.

This unit is the only investigative organization in the country dedicated to crypto-related crimes.

Faster Justice Will Help Fight Crypto Crime – Prosecutors

Lee claims that the “rollout of regulations” and “punishments” against crypto-related crimes is “progressing slowly.” He says:

“We must restore confidence in the virtual asset market, which has turned into a lawless zone. To do this, we must speed up not only the pace of investigations, but also trials and sentences.”

📑 Local media reported that South Korea took decisive action to combat the surge in cryptocurrency-related crime and fraud cases by establishing a temporary virtual asset investigation unit as a permanent entity. This step co…https://t.co/ yd7EObgib1

— Cryptonews.com (@cryptonews) April 29, 2024

Lee emphasized that although crypto-related crimes present new aspects to the courts, at their core, they are essentially no different from conventional financial fraud.

He said that neither investigative agencies nor courts “will have any difficulty dealing with virtual asset crimes using new IT.”

Lee justified this by stating that “the essence of theft of property through lies does not change – regardless of the technology involved.” He says:

“A unified response across government is urgently needed. This kind of approach will help address the rapidly growing problem of financial and high-tech crime.”

The prosecutor added:

“We can only help victims recover their funds if an investigation can be carried out quickly.”

The main entrance to the Seoul Southern District Prosecutor’s Office. (Source: KBS News/YouTube)

Crime Tackling Unit ‘First of Its Kind’

Lee was the unit’s first director. He was appointed when the team launched in July 2023.

This unit is the first and only dedicated crypto asset investigation organization in South Korea.

The agency consists of about 30 professionals from seven government-funded agencies, including the National Tax Service, Prosecution Service, Financial Supervisory Service, the Financial Services Commission-run Financial Intelligence Unit, and the Korea Customs Service.

The unit also consists of members of the Korea Deposit Insurance Corporation, the country’s bank deposit protection agency, as well as the Korea Exchange.

Since its launch, the agency appears to have been inundated with cases. These include high-profile art-themed altcoin cases involving police and corruption prosecutions.

Lee also noted that his unit has handled cases such as “an illegal over-the-counter (OTC) trading ring” worth “approximately $478 million.”

Financial Services Commission (FSC) building in Seoul, South Korea. This building houses the FSC’s Financial Intelligence Unit. (Source: MBC News/YouTube)

New Prosecutor’s Unit Faces Challenges

The unit has also investigated allegations surrounding Haru Invest and crypto lending platform Delio, after crypto lending platform Delio suspended withdrawals in October 2023.

Lee also spoke about the challenging nature of his unit’s work, where investigators often enter terra incognita with their investigations. He says:

“The cases investigated by this joint unit are largely unprecedented and have no legal precedent.”

Lee also commented on the recent wave of reports centering on South Korea’s alleged “fraudulent coins,” saying:

“Fraud coins are no different from common scams. In essence, their operators want to make money by defrauding people.”

Last month, police arrested a man on suspicion stole nearly $362,000 in cash in an armed robbery at a OTC crypto buyers.

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