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New Zealand Police Arrest “Vinnik Treasure”

25 June 2020 14:00, UTC
New Zealand Police Arrest “Vinnik Treasure”

New Zealand police announced the arrest of $90 million related to the BTC-e cryptocurrency exchanges. However, this is only part of the assets of the once largest Russian-language cryptocurrency trading site. These assets by the name of the possible owner are called "Vinnik's treasure."

On June 22, New Zealand police reported a national record — the largest amount of money seized as part of a criminal investigation. We are talking about the assets of the largest Russian-speaking cryptocurrency exchange BTC-e. In mid-2017, one of the possible founders of the exchange — Russian Alexander Vinnik — was arrested on the beach in Greece at the request of the FBI. According to US law enforcement agencies, the exchange was used to launder funds by various groups of cyber fraudsters.

In total, the New Zealand police seized assets worth 140 million New Zealand dollars, or about 90 million US dollars, following from the corresponding message. They were on the accounts of an unnamed New Zealand company but allegedly belonged to Vinnik and Seychelles Canton Business Corporation — the operator of BTC-e, according to US law enforcement agencies. Vinnik's side has not yet commented on these messages.

A quick BTC-e throwback

BTC-e cryptocurrency exchange was founded in 2011. It was possible to buy and sell bitcoins, novacoins, and other digital money on it.Unlike many other cryptocurrency brokers, BTC-e did not require serious authorization: it was enough to specify an email to start bidding. For comparison: on exchanges that seek to comply with anti-money laundering legislation, you need to provide not only passport data but even utility bills to prove that you really live at the specified address.

According to the non-governmental organization Global Witness, if in 2012 there were 20 thousand users on BTC-e, then by October 2014 it was already almost 600 thousand. More than 20% of them were Russian representatives. In the fall of 2016, it was the third-largest crypto exchange in the world, according to a Global Witness report.

On the eve of the crash in June 2017, the total daily turnover of the site exceeded $66 million (Coinmarketcap statistics). From each transaction, site administrators received 0.2 - 0.5% of the commission. However, none of the many clients knew who owned this profitable business.

Image courtesy of RNZ



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