New Zealand police have frozen $140 million in Bank accounts linked to Alexander Vinnik and the BTC-e exchange.
New Zealand Herald, the money was controlled by a new Zealand-registered company, Canton Business Corporation, and was frozen as part of a global investigation that arrested Alexander Vinnik, allegedly involved in laundering $4 billion through bitcoin.
Police Commissioner Andrew Coster said that Vinnik previously managed the BTC-e cryptocurrency exchange. He claims that BTC-e, which operated from the United States, did not implement anti-money laundering measures. This led to the laundering of the proceeds of crime.
Vinnik was arrested
on charges of money laundering in Greece in 2017 and this year was extradited
to France, where he remains in custody.
“The New Zealand police have worked closely with the us internal Revenue service as part of the investigation into this serious crime,” Koster said. “These funds probably represent profits from laundering the proceeds of cybercriminals and organized crime.”
The publication claims that, according to a declassified indictment by the us attorney’s office, BTC-e operations were also based in the Seychelles, and web domains were registered to shell companies, including in Singapore, the British virgin Islands and New Zealand.
According to The new Zealand government business registration Agency, Vinnik registered WME Capital Management Ltd in North shore in 2008. However, in 2012, the company was removed from the state register, as the Agency decided that it had ceased operations.
The name WME also appears in the indictment of the us attorney’s office, as Vinnik allegedly managed a WME account on BTC-e. The exchange’s web domains were registered by several new Zealand companies that cooperate with the police.
The further fate of the frozen $140 million will be decided in court. The New Zealand police investigation will rely on evidence gathered by the United States, including an allegation that Vinnik participated in the laundering of funds obtained after the MtGox exchange was hacked.
Earlier it was reported that more than 300,000 stolen BTC ended up on BTC-e. Moreover, some of them were placed immediately in the internal storage of the exchange, and not in the users ‘ wallets, which may indicate a direct connection between Vinnik and BTC-e. Coins stolen from MtGox, Bitcoinica, Bitfloor and other exchanges passed through Vinnik.
Koster said that given the global nature of money laundering operations, there was always a risk of unintended involvement by new Zealand companies. The frozen $140 million was the largest amount ever seized by New Zealand law enforcement.