South Korean Banker Allegedly Embezzles $1.1M to Invest in Bitcoin

An employee at the South Korean BNK Busan Bank allegedly embezzled 1.48 billion won ($1.1 million) of clients’ funds to invest in Bitcoin.

Between June 9 and July 25, an employee working on the bank’s foreign exchange team reportedly embezzled the money over several occasions, according to an announcement.

Each time, the employee allegedly deposited money received from customers overseas into the personal account of their romantic partner. The misappropriated funds were then used to invest in Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. 

In addition to taking legal action against the employee, BNK Busan Bank said that it would undergo a self-audit, according to its disclosure. This is the latest in over 10 cases of embezzlement perpetrated by bank employees in South Korea this year. 

Earlier this year, one employee at Woori Bank was discovered to have allegedly embezzled nearly 70 billion won (US$53.6 million) from 2012.

Subsequently, South Korea’s Financial Supervisory Service has started preparing stricter guidelines for internal controls within banks.

South Korean regulators launch probe

The discovery is likely the result of a recent policy choice made by authorities in South Korea. Last month, financial regulators in South Korea started probing foreign-exchange transactions at commercial banks for the illicit transactions involving crypto. 

According to an anonymous senior Financial Supervisory Service official, authorities have been checking banks for any links to money laundering or currency speculation that involve crypto assets. While he neglected to identify any crypto exchanges under review, Shinhan Bank was revealed as one of the lenders under probe. 

Crypto tax delay

Meanwhile, authorities in South Korea recently delayed the implementation of a cryptocurrency tax regime once again, with the new plan for the 20% capital gains tax to come into effect in 2025. The 20% capital gains tax on cryptocurrencies was expected to come into effect from the start of 2023. 

The 20% tax would apply to crypto gains that exceed $1,900 in a one-year period. Many market participants take issue with the rule, feeling that taxing gains above $1,900 is too strict. Smaller investors, for example, would be especially hurt by this particular threshold.

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