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Australian police officer indicted for alleged theft of 81 BTC from drug proceeds

australian-police-officer-indicted-for-alleged-theft-of-81-btc-from-drug-proceeds
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Australian police officer indicted for alleged theft of 81 BTC from drug proceeds

William Wheatley, an officer of the Australian police, is currently undergoing court proceedings in connection with accusations of stealing crypto assets seized during the dismantling of an online drug-trafficking operation.

The officer in question is being charged with theft, managing proceeds from suspected criminal activities, and leveraging confidential information for personal gain. These charges are being addressed in a committal hearing taking place this week at the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court.

Amid a series of testimonies, Wheatley’s defense asserts that the case relies on circumstantial evidence, challenging the actions attributed to their client. The ongoing hearing unfolds as the legal proceedings progress.

Initially accused in December 2022, Wheatley is currently challenging the allegations. According to court documents, he allegedly misappropriated 81.616 Bitcoin (BTC) from a crypto wallet while law enforcement was investigating a drug trafficking ring under Operation Viridian in 2019.

Notably, numerous criminal networks have embraced cryptocurrency payments as a means to hide their tracks. The 81.6 BTC reportedly misappropriated by Wheatley constituted a portion of the funds derived from the drug trafficking ring.

Background of the case

The operation into the drug trafficking business was carried out by the Icarus Taskforce, a combined effort from the Australian Federal Police and the Victoria Police. The task force discovered a computer after conducting a raid on Jan. 25, 2019, in connection with the operation. 

They then sought the help of Sergeant Deon Achtypis, a detective of the cybercrime unit. Achtypis disclosed that he and his team uncovered orders involving drugs and Bitcoin transactions on an encrypted email service. They also found a Trezor wallet, which they handed over to the Icarus Taskforce.

Following approval to restore access to the wallet, Detective Achtypis discovered that 81.616 BTC had been transferred shortly after he and his team located the device. Initially valued at $450,000, these assets were subsequently moved to two other digital wallets, with their current valuation now exceeding $6.3 million.

The detectives revisited the case in 2021 after Initially attributing the asset movement to accomplices of the drug trafficking ring. Notably, the investigation took a turn when one of the scrutinized IP addresses was traced back to the headquarters of the Australian Federal Police in Melbourne, intensifying suspicions of police involvement.

Crypto investigator Craig Gillespie, who was engaged by the authorities, tracked 28 transactions between January and April 2019. Certain transactions from this period are purportedly connected to withdrawals that found their way into Wheatley’s bank account between 2019 and September 2022.

AFP officer Jesse Wyatt testified that he, the only federal police officer present during the raid, contacted Wheatley upon discovering the cryptocurrency wallet. In a text message, Wyatt sought Wheatley’s expertise, describing the metallic device as a possible “cryptocurrency thing.”