Swifter Justice Needed for Crypto Offenders, Says South Korean Prosecution Chief

A top South Korean prosecution official says courts must deliver swifter justice to crypto offenders – with cases currently taking “too long” to process.

The comments came from Lee Jeong-ryeol, the head of the Seoul Southern District Prosecutors’ Office’s joint crypto investigation unit, in an interview with the newspaper Hanguk Kyungjae.

The unit is the nation’s only investigative organization dedicated to crypto-related crimes.

Swifter Justice Will Help Fight Crypto Crime – Prosecutor
Lee claimed that “regulation rollouts” and the “punishment” of crypto-related crimes “have been slow.” He said:

“We must restore trust in the virtual assets market, which has turned into a lawless zone. To do this, we must speed up not only the pace of investigations, but also trials and sentencing.”

Lee insisted that while crypto-related crimes present courts with novel aspects, at their core, they are essentially no different from conventional financial fraud.

He said that neither investigative agencies nor courts “should find it difficult to deal with virtual asset crimes using new IT.”

Lee justified this by stating that the “essence of stealing property through lies does not change – regardless of the technology involved.” He said:

“An integrated response across the government is urgently needed. This kind of approach will help address the problem of fast-evolving financial and high-tech crimes.”

The prosecutor added:

“We will only be able to help victims recover their funds if investigations can be conducted rapidly.”

Unit Tackling ‘First-of-their-kind’ Crimes
Lee is the unit’s first director. He was appointed when the team launched in July 2023.

The unit is South Korea’s first and only dedicated cryptoasset investigation organization.

It comprises around 30 professionals from seven government-funded agencies, including the National Tax Service, the Prosecution Service, the Financial Supervisory Service, the Financial Services Commission-run Financial Intelligence Unit, and the Korea Customs Service.

The unit also comprises members of the Korea Deposit Insurance Corporation, the nation’s bank deposit protection agency, as well as the Korea Exchange.

Since its launch, the agency appears to have been inundated with cases. These include a high-profile art-themed altcoin case involving police and prosecution corruption.

Lee also noted that his unit has been dealing with cases such as “illegal over-the-counter (OTC) trade networks” worth “around $478 million.”

New Prosecution Unit Faces Challenges
The unit has also investigated allegations surrounding Haru Invest and the crypto lending platform Delio, after the latter suspended withdrawals in October 2023.

Lee also spoke about the challenging nature of his unit’s work, with investigators often entering terra incognita with their probes. He said:

“The cases the joint unit investigates are mostly first-of-their-kind cases with no existing legal precedent.”

Lee also commented on a recent wave of reports centering on alleged South Korean “scam coins,” saying:

“Scam coins are no different from general scams. At their heart, their operators are out to make money by deceiving people.”

Last month, police arrested a man for allegedly stealing almost $362,000 worth of cash in an armed robbery on an OTC crypto buyer.

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