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Gamer embezzles virtual cash to settle real debts

Eve Online banker does a runner

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As if high-profile investment scandals and the economic downturn weren't bad enough here on Earth, now folks have to deal with it outside our galaxy. Virtually, at least.

Impoverished from real-world debts, the CEO of the largest player-run financial institution in the sci-fi MMO Eve Online stole thousands of dollars worth of the game's currency and traded it for real money on the black market.

Reuters reports a 27-year-old Australian tech worker identified only as Richard - who goes by the handles Ricdic and Ricdics on Eve - helmed the reputable player-run savings and loan "business" Ebank when he embezzled about 200 billion Intersteller Kredits (the game's currency) from fellow players.

He then broke the game's terms of service by exchanging the virtual money for AU$6,300 (£3,050, $US5,000) from other players.

"It was a very on the spot decision" he told Reuters in an interview. Richard said he used the money to cover a deposit on the house and expenses related to his son's medical problems.

Other Eve players who are in charge of Ebank say on the game's official board Richard stole roughly 8.6 per cent of the virtual institution's 2.3 trillion in deposits.

When the scandal broke within Eve, customers made a run on the bank, worried they would lose the money they had deposited.

Although Richard was banned from the game, the punishment wasn't due to the theft itself. Eve's developers at Iceland-based CCP Games have a notoriously laissez-faire attitude to what players can and will do to each other within the confines of the game. Player-organized corporations and alliances are often involved with massive infiltrations and heists, and virtual crime extends to in-game piracy, ransom, and assassination. Richard was ultimately sent packing from the Eve universe for exchanging the stolen credits for real money.

"I'm not proud of it at all, that's why I didn't brag about it. But you know, if I had to do it again, I probably would've chosen the same path based on the same situation," he said.

Ebank claims the bank run has mostly ended and are "very well capitalized" at the moment. Richard has no plans to return to the game and will focus on family responsibilities in real-life. ®

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