A Russian man arrested in Greece accused of laundering at least $4 billion of ill-gotten bitcoins has now been charged by a U.S. grand jury.
As recently reported by CCN, 38-year-old Alexander Vinnik was arrested in cooperation with U.S. authorities through “one of the most important websites of electronic crime in the world.”
As the story developed, it was revealed that Alexander Vinnik was a “BTC-e operator”, and that the exchange’s website went down before news of his arrest surfaced. On Twitter, it stated there was “unplanned maintenance”, and the latest update, on July 26, declared it would be “5-10 days” before it got back up, although at press time the domain has been seized by authorities.
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Former Mt Gox CEO Mark Karpeles himself tweeted out that Vinnik was the “Mt Gox Bitcoin thief”, and then independent security team and investigators WizSec revealed through an announcement that Alexander Vinnik was, indeed, their main suspect for involvement in the Mt Gox theft or subsequent money laundering. It was also revealed that part of the stolen funds ended up on BTC-e.
Charged by US Grand Jury
The Russian national has now been indicted by a U.S. grand jury over the alleged money laundering. He faces 21 counts, including laundering stolen funds from Mt Gox, as well as computer hacking and drug trafficking. So far, Vinnik has made no public comments but, according to the BBC, he was the “brain” behind the whole operation.
According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in California’s northern district, the indictment alleges that Vinnik received funds from the Mt Gox hack. Given the motive of his arrest, he then presumably laundered these funds, either for himself or for someone else.
Brian Stretch, a U.S. Attorney for the northern district of California, stated:
Just as new computer technologies continue to change the way we engage each other and experience the world, so too will criminals subvert these new technologies to serve their own nefarious purposes.
Greek authorities will soon start to negotiate Vinnik’s extradition to the U.S., and if he is convicted he could face up to 20 years in prison. The extradition request, as previously covered, can take up to two months to be examined, per Greek law.
Vinnik’s arrest comes after two of darknet’s biggest markets, AlphaBay and Hansa, were taken down by U.S. authorities. In a press briefing at the Department of Justice (DOJ), U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions revealed that president Donald Trump ordered the DOJ to go after international cybercrime organizations.
Notably, when talking about AlphaBay being taken down, he stated:
This case, pursued by dedicated agents and prosecutors, says you are not safe. You cannot hide. We will find you, dismantle your organization and network. And we will prosecute you.
Featured image from Shutterstock.