A South Korean court has handed a one-year suspended prison sentence, as well as two years of probation, to a civil servant who had stolen thousands of US Dollars’ worth of public funds for crypto investments. The individual, whose identity cannot be revealed for legal reasons, was the one in charge of budget expenditure at an administrative welfare center in the city of Ulsan, South Gyeongsang Province.

The court heard that the official had made 41 different transfers, in which they had wilfully misappropriated a total of $159,000, and had attempted to cover their tracks by labelling the misappropriation as “expenses”. This was done by marking the money off as “stationary purchases”, “office supplies”, “security payments” and “electricity bill settlements”. The stolen funds were primarily used to invest in cryptocurrencies.

Before beginning to steal public funds, the official had already incurred huge losses from crypto trading. The misappropriations took place between June and December 2022.

The sentence, which was considered by some media outlets as too lenient, was explained by the presiding judge in the following way: “[The court] has taken into account the fact that all the embezzled money was repaid to the local government. The court has also considered the fact that the accused will likely lose their position, and the fact that the accused actively cooperated with the police and prosecution’s investigation into the matter.”

In October last year, another South Korean public official had escaped overseas with $2.8 million worth of crypto, which is believed to have been embezzled from a public fund. Last week, police arrested a suspected crypto scammer who allegedly posed as a civil servant to dupe victims out of fiat and crypto holdings.

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