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Kim Nilsson was seething. It was 2014, and the software engineer discovered someone had disabled access to his bitcoins. A crime had apparently been committed, one that the police seemed unable to comprehend, much less solve.

The coins went missing from a failed bitcoin exchange called Mt. Gox, and hundreds of investors found themselves demoralized, if not broke. More than $400 million had seemingly vanished into cyberspace.

Unlike many victims, Mr. Nilsson resolved to fight back, and he teamed up with a lawyer and another partner who also lost bitcoins to track down the culprits. What ensued was a three-year journey through the internet’s underbelly that ended last summer on a Greek beach. There, in the shadow of a 1,000-year-old monastery, FBI agents arrested a Russian man and charged him with laundering bitcoin worth some $4 billion at recent exchange rates, one of the biggest crimes to be alleged in the brief history of cryptocurrencies.

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