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S Korean Gov’t Worker ‘Embezzled Public Funds and Escaped with $2.8m in Crypto’

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A missing South Korean government worker is thought to be on the run with $2.8 million worth of public funds stolen from the country’s National Health Insurance Service (NHIS) – and the suspect appears to have converted most or all of the money to crypto.

KBS reported that prosecutors and police officers are on the hunt for a 44-year-old NHIS employee identified only by their surname – Choi. Investigators think Choi embezzled a total of $3.24 million from NHIS accounts, diverting public money into his own private bank accounts. They say they have recovered some $423,000 of the funds.

But Choi, the authorities stated, appears to have used the remainder of the money to buy crypto, which they think may be held on an overseas crypto exchange.

While the South Korean courts have the power to force domestic crypto exchanges to freeze funds and close wallets held on their own platforms, they have no jurisdiction over exchanges based on foreign soil.

However, prosecutors and police officers say they have been working with an exchange where they think the coins are being held – and hope they will convince the trading platform to cooperate with them.

But they also admitted there was a chance that the coins had already been sold for fiat or moved on elsewhere.

The NHIS manages medical health contributions made by South Korean workers and their employees.

Where Is Missing Government Worker?

Choi was described as a middle manager, and Channel A reported that they were last seen over a week ago, telling colleagues they were going on vacation for two weeks.

Police said that Choi shortly after left for Germany, per immigration records. Choi may have traveled to the Philippines shortly after. But Choi’s passport remains active, and despite intervention from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the document cannot be voided until October 31.

Choi is also believed to have spoken to his colleagues at the NHIS since the manager fled the country to say they were “sorry” for what had transpired.

The case has echoes of the prosecution’s hunt for the Terraform Labs chief Do Kwon, whose passport took over a month to void following the issuance of an arrest warrant. Prosecutors began pushing for Kwon’s passport to be canceled in mid-September – and were only granted their wish on October 20.