Russian mastermind, Alexander Vinnik, arrested in Greece for laundering funds

Russian Mastermind, Alexander Vinnik, got arrested in Greece for laundering funds from Mt. Gox hack. Vinnik was arrested Tuesday and was accused of laundering more than $4 billion bitcoin and funds he obtained from the failed bitcoin exchange Mt. Gox, a bitcoin exchange based in Tokyo, Japan. Vinnik was the owner and operator of BTC-e, a digital currency exchange since 2011. He used this operation to launder billions for people involved in crimes from hacking to drug trafficking.  He has been described by Greek police as: “an internally sought ‘mastermind’ of a crime organization.”

After his arrest at a small beach side village in northern Greece on Tuesday, Vinnick was charged with a 21 count indictment by a grand jury in the Northern District of California. His arrest followed after an investigation led by the U.S Justice Department and several other federal agencies. Vinnik was charged with a 21 count indictment for alleged International Money Scheme and for laundering funds. The indictment described Vinnik as the owner and operator of several BTC-e, this included administrator accounts. He was also the owner of BTC-e’s shell company, Canton Business Corporation. The indictment also alleges, many withdrawals from the administrator accounts went directly into his personal bank accounts. Many well-known hacks and thefts from bitcoin exchanges were also funded from the BTC-e administrator accounts. 

Founded in 2011, BTC-e has become the largest and most used digital currency exchange around the world. BTC-e allowed its users to trade Bitcoin using remarkable levels of anonymity and was built to develop a customer base of cybercriminals, by not forcing users to confirm their identities, anonymize transactions and source funds, and avoid anti-money laundering processes. As U.S Attorney Stretch said, Cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, are providing new and innovative forms of legitimate commerce. However, like most technologies, criminals are finding new and malicious uses for their own purposes.

Special Agent in Charge of the USSS Criminal Investigative Division Michael D’Ambrosio said the following statement:

“BTC-e was noted for its role in numerous ransomware and other cyber-criminal activity; its take-down is a significant accomplishment, and should serve as a reminder of our global reach in combating transnational cybercrime”