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South Korean Court Jails Civil Servant Who Stole Public Funds to Buy Crypto

Tim Alper
Last updated: | 1 min read
High-rise buildings in Ulsan, South Korea.
Source: J. studio/Adobe

A South Korean court has handed a suspended jail term to a civil servant who stole thousands of USD worth of public funds to pay for crypto investments.

Per Yonhap, the public official was handed a one-year suspended prison sentence, as well as two years of probation.

The official was not named for legal reasons.

The individual was in charge of budget expenditure at an administrative welfare center in the city of Ulsan, South Gyeongsang Province.

The court heard that the official siphoned off a total of around $159,00 worth of public funds from the center over the course of 41 separate transfers.

And the court was told that the official tried to cover their traces by marking the embezzlement as “expenses.”

On many occasions, huge sums of money were written off as “stationary purchases” or “office supplies.”

The official also wrote off embezzled money as “security payments” and “electricity bill settlements.”

Instead, the court heard, the official spent “most” of the embezzled funds on crypto investments.

The court was told the official had already “suffered huge losses from investing in cryptocurrency” before they began raiding public coffers.

The official embezzled the funds between June and December 2022.

A graph showing one-week trading volumes on Upbit, South Korea’s most popular crypto exchange.
One-week trading volumes on Upbit, South Korea’s most popular crypto exchange. (Source: CoinGecko)

Why Did ‘Crypto-keen’ South Korean Public Official Escape Jail Time?

Some media outlets have suggested the punishment was overly lenient, particularly while the national news is still being dominated by the Coin Gate scandal.

But the presiding judge explained their reason for the sentence, stating:

“[The court] has taken into account the fact that all the embezzled money was repaid to the local government. The court has also considered the fact that the accused will likely lose their position, and the fact that the accused actively cooperated with the police and prosecution’s investigation into the matter.”

In October last year, another South Korean public official escaped overseas with $2.8 million worth of crypto.

Police believe the money was also embezzled from a public fund.

Last week, police arrested a suspected crypto scammer who allegedly posed as a civil servant to dupe victims out of fiat and crypto holdings.