Bitfinex cryptocurrency linked to 2016 hack soars 51% after US recovers $3.6 billion, raising hopes that the token will be burned
- A cryptocurrency issued by Bitfinex to recoup losses from a 2016 hack has soared after authorities recovered $3.6 billion.
- The "unus sed leo" token was up 51% to $7.41 Wednesday, according to Coinmarketcap data.
A cryptocurrency issued by the Bitfinex exchange following a major 2016 hack has soared 52% after US authorities recovered bitcoin worth $3.6 billion and arrested two people.
The token, called "unus sed leo", was up 51% to $7.41 as of 5.45 a.m. ET on Wednesday, having earlier risen as much as 59%. Its market capitalization stood at roughly $7.2 billion, according to Coinmarketcap.
Bitfinex parent iFinex issued leo in 2019 in an effort to recoup some losses from the major 2016 hack, in which bitcoin currently valued at around $4.5 billion was stolen.
iFinex said at the time if the money was ever returned, it would use at least 80% of the total to buy back and then "burn" — that is, remove from existence — leo tokens within the following 18 months.
Buyers flocked to the token after the US Justice Department said Tuesday it had seized over $3.6 billion of bitcoin linked to the hack. It said officers arrested Ilya Lichtenstein, 34, and his wife Heather Morgan, 31, for an alleged conspiracy to launder cryptocurrency that was stolen in the attack.
The couple have a strong presence on social media, where Lichtenstein also uses the nickname Dutch. Morgan is a journalist that has contributed to Forbes, and is also a rapper that goes by the alias Razzlekhan.
Morgan and Lichtenstein's lawyer, identified by Bloomberg as Anirudh Bansal, was not immediately available to comment when contacted via email by Insider.
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Bitfinex exchange said in a statement released Tuesday that it still intends to buy back and burn the tokens, should the money be returned.
"Bitfinex will work with the DOJ and follow appropriate legal processes to establish our rights to a return of the stolen bitcoin," it said.
Authorities had long been hunting for the missing funds, after a hacker in 2016 breached Bitfinex's defenses and stole 119,754 bitcoin in more than 2,000 unauthorized transactions. Since that date, the bitcoin has soared in value, totalling roughly $4.5 billion.
Lichtenstein and Morgan were both arrested Tuesday morning in Manhattan, New York. They are charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering and conspiracy to defraud the United States, and could be facing 20 years in jail. They were later released on bail.