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Prolific hacker ordered to pay back nearly £1m in Bitcoin to victims

Tom Hoggins
Grant West, 27, accrued nearly £1m in cryptocurrency via cyber-attacks on hundreds of companies - Metropolitan Police

A prolific hacker has been ordered to pay back over £900,000 worth of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies to his victims in the first case of its kind for the Metropolitan Police.

Grant West, 27, who operated under the online pseudonym of ‘Courvoisier’, accrued almost £1m worth of the cryptocurrency after phishing attacks on hundreds of companies worldwide.

West, from Sheerness, Kent, targeted firms such as Sainsbury’s, Argos and Uber, using email scams to obtain the financial data of “tens of thousands of customers”. He would then sell personal data on the dark web in exchange for Bitcoin, which was stored in multiple accounts.

The accounts were confiscated by police after West’s arrest in September 2017 following a two-year investigation. Police also seized an SD card with 78 million individual usernames and passwords and 63,000 credit and debit card details.

One of West’s scams involved him posing as food delivery service Just Eat and attempting to steal the financial information of 165,000 customers. While this attack was not successful in acquiring financial data, the Met Police said that his actions cost the firm £200,000.

At the time of his arrest, the value of West’s cryptocurrency was reportedly around £1.6m. But the wildly fluctuating value of Bitcoin and other digital currencies mean caused “a headache” in setting the value of the confiscation, according to prosecuting barrister Kevin Barry.

At Southwark Crown Court, Judge Joanna Korner ruled that the police could confiscate £922,978.14 from West’s accounts. The cryptocurrency will be sold and West’s victims compensated for damage caused.

It is the first seizure of its kind for the Metropolitan Police. Digital currencies have become popular with criminals due to their anonymous nature and ease with which accounts can be encrypted.

In July 2018, Surrey Police became the first force in the UK to successfully seize cryptocurrency, confiscating £1.2m from Sergej Teresko, a senior member of an organised crime gang. The currency was converted into sterling and Surrey Police were given permission to keep the money for government and police funds.

West was sentenced to ten years and eight months in prison in May last year for a variety of offences including conspiracy to defraud and possession of criminal property. He was told he would serve a further four years if he refused the confiscation of his funds. West complied with the order.

Head of the Met’s Cyber Crime Unit, Detective Chief Inspector Kirsty Goldsmith, said: “The MPS is committed to ensuring that individuals who are committing criminality on the Dark Web are identified, prosecuted and their criminal assets are seized.”