Korean Nth Room Police Hunt 260K Crypto Wallets, Brokerages Hand over Client Data
South Korean crypto exchanges are cooperating with the police investigation into the Telegram “Nth room” sexual exploitation case, with brokerages now being searched, and exchange data seized and hundreds of thousands of crypto-fiat gateway records checked.
Per a number of South Korean media outlets, including Yonhap and KBS, as well as Newsis and Nocut News, police now believe they have identified 260,000 wallets, whose holders sent funds to Cho Joo-bin, the man suspected to be the mastermind behind the Telegram room.
Cho is believed to have operated a number of Telegram chat rooms, charging “membership fees” for access, payable exclusively in cryptocurrency. “Members” paying around USD 1,222 worth of tokens were allowed to access graphic and brutal rape and torture videos. Police say that 74 women were featured in the videos, including over a dozen minors.
Police believe that the country’s banking guidelines for exchanges have already helped them identify thousands of people who paid to watch the video. The guidelines, issued by the government in 2018, require exchanges to use real-name (non-anonymous) wallets linked to social security number–verified bank accounts.
All four of the country’s biggest exchanges – Korbit, Coinone, Bithumb and Upbit – currently adhere to these as-yet-unbinding guidelines. However, a recent legal change will see the guidelines become compulsory as of March 2021.
The police and the government have both found themselves under enormous pressure to make the list of subscribers to the Nth room public – a move that would be unprecedented both for the criminal justice system and the cryptocurrency industry.
At least one police officer is thought to have been among the list of subscribers to the chat room, which is believed to have begun operating since 2018.
Exchanges are thought to be complying fully with the investigation, despite the fact that they have been asked to hand over confidential data on thousands of their customers.
Nocut says that police have seized data at exchanges Bithumb, Upbit and Coinone, and states that brokerage agencies Bestcoin and BitProxy have also been asked to release information on their clients.
A number of chat room subscribers appear to have attempted to cover their tracks by using privacy coins such as monero (XMR). However, police say they are confident of tracking down monero purchase orders as they attempt to unveil the identity of subscribers who chose to pay in privacy coins.