South Korean civil servant jailed for using public funds to buy cryptocurrency

A civil servant in South Korea has been given a suspended jail sentence for stealing thousands of dollars of public funds to invest in cryptocurrency. The unnamed official was responsible for budget expenditure at an administrative welfare center in Ulsan, South Gyeongsang Province. They embezzled around $159,000 worth of public funds over 41 transfers between June and December 2022. The official wrote off the embezzlement as “expenses”, “stationary purchases”, “office supplies”, “security payments” and “electricity bill settlements”. The court heard that most of the embezzled funds were invested in cryptocurrency, despite the official having already “suffered huge losses from investing in cryptocurrency” before the embezzlement began. The official was handed a one-year suspended sentence and two years of probation.

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Some media outlets have criticized the leniency of the sentence in light of the ongoing Coin Gate scandal. However, the judge explained that the fact that the embezzled money was repaid and the official cooperated with the investigation were taken into account. In October 2021, another public official fled overseas with $2.8m of cryptocurrency, while police recently arrested a suspected crypto scammer who posed as a civil servant to defraud victims of fiat and cryptocurrency.