According to Reuters, Greek police, in cooperation with U.S. authorities, recently arrested a Russian man, 38-year-old Alexander Vinnik, for laundering at least $4 billion of ill-gotten money using bitcoin.
Police managed to arrest the Russian national at a small beachside village in northern Greece after being tipped off. Sources suggest Alexander Vinnik was running popular bitcoin exchange BTC-e.
The arrest warrant was issued by the U.S. Ministry of Justice, and reports suggest the United States are looking to extradite Alexander. The warrant relates to running a criminal organization that, since 2011, has laundered billions. Police stated that he administered “one of the most important websites of electronic crime in the world.”
According to Reuters, the mentioned website’s volume was massive, as it had “7 million bitcoins deposited, and 5.5 million bitcoins in withdrawals.” Police seized mobile phones, two laptops, and five tablets from Alexander Vinnik’s hotel room.
The man has already appeared before a prosecutor in Thessaloniki, northern Greece, and is going to be held in custody pending examination of the extradition request. Under Greek law, according to Bloomberg, it can take up to two months until the extradition request is examined.
Although details on the man’s alleged operation are still scarce, a Greek police official pointed out that the man was accused of running a platform that converted proceeds of online ransoms, identity theft, tax violations, and more into bitcoin.
In Moscow, the Russian Foreign Ministry said it had no information on the case.
On July 25, one day before news of Alexander Vinnik’s arrest surfaced, popular bitcoin exchange BTC-e went down. On Twitter, the exchanged cited “unplanned maintenance” in its data center. The exchange’s engineers quickly started working on the problem but, so far, the exchange is still down.
Unplanned maintenance in data center, possible problems with access to btc-e #btce
— BTC-E (@btcecom) July 25, 2017
Moreover, BTC-e was founded in 2011, just like the website Alexander Vinnik was reportedly running. The coincidences lined up so much that a lot of users now believe that Alexander was an admin at BTC-e. A recent tweet from Reuters seems to confirm the suspicion:
— Reuters Tech News (@ReutersTech) July 26, 2017
Users were also quick to point out a Forbes article about Google warning about the recent ransomware boom, as it netted criminals about $2 million a year. The article claims criminals have been using BTC-e to cash out their ill-gotten funds. It reads:
As for where the criminals are cashing out, 95 percent of ransom funds were cashed out at the Russian exchange BTC-E.
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