Multi-billion dollar crypto money laundering scheme exposed

In this post:

  • Co-founder guilty of $9B crypto laundering scheme.
  • Unregulated exchange enabled massive money laundering.
  • Years-long probe led to co-founder’s extradition.

BTC-e co-founder Alexander Vinnik pleaded guilty to money laundering conspiracy in a case that was part of a larger investigation that showed extensive illegal activities on the cryptocurrency exchange from 2011 to 2017.

Crypto exchange’s compliance failures

On May 3, the US Department of Justice announced in a press release that, under Vinnik’s leadership, over 1 million users worldwide, including many from the United States, made transactions on the BTC-e platform for over $9 billion.

The site facilitated money laundering from criminal proceeds generated from criminal activities like computer intrusion or hacking, ransomware fraud, and drug trafficking. The DOJ probe uncovered that BTC-e had no semblance of basic regulatory controls; the system didn’t bother registering with FinCEN or have any Anti-Money Laundering or KYC procedures.

These deficits fueled the popularity of BTC-e among criminals who needed to hide money transactions from the police. Further, it was established that Vinnik created numerous shell corporations and bank accounts in various countries worldwide, which helped launder the proceeds through BTC-e, generating at least $121 million in illicit proceeds.

Co-founder extradited after years-long case

Vinnik has been in a legal quagmire for the last five years over being considered the mastermind of BTC-e. The cryptocurrency exchange allegedly profited from a series of criminal enterprises and was used to launder some $4 billion worth of Bitcoin. Vinnik was arrested in Greece in 2017 on a money laundering charge and then extradited to France in 2020. In France, Vinnik was acquitted of the ransomware charges but convicted of the money laundering charges and sentenced to five years.

Vinnik’s lawyers in France filed an appeal to invalidate the decision that their client had been a lone exchange employee and was not involved in any of the illicit activities of BTC-e. He had spent two years in detention in a French prison, and on 5th August 2022, he was extradited to the United States. Since Vinnik was a Russian national who had earlier attempted to fix a deal on prisoner exchange, he would be considered under a prisoner exchange accord between the two countries of Russia and the United States.

U.S. authorities have done the same to crypto exchanges and top executives. On March 28, former FTX CEO Sam Bankman-Fried was sentenced to 25 years for seven felony charges.

Disclaimer. The information provided is not trading advice. Cryptopolitan.com holds no liability for any investments made based on the information provided on this page. We strongly recommend independent research and/or consultation with a qualified professional before making any investment decisions.

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