Europol announced that European law enforcement authorities have detained four more members of the executive team of cryptocurrency exchange Bitzlato. According to the police agency, nearly half of the funds processed through the platform are related to various criminal activities.
Bitzlato senior management targeted in Europe, dismantling the exchange infrastructure
Top executives of the recently busted Bitzlato were arrested as part of an international investigation against the cryptocurrency exchange involving law enforcement and judicial authorities in several European countries.
According to a press release released by the European Union’s law enforcement cooperation agency (Europol) on Monday, the operation, which was led by the United States and France, also included Belgium, Cyprus, Portugal, Spain and the Netherlands.
The agency confirmed that the Hong Kong-registered cryptocurrency trading platform was suspected of facilitating the laundering of large amounts of criminal proceeds. Last week, the United States announced the arrest in Miami of co-founder and majority owner Anatoly Legkodimov, a Russian citizen residing in China. Its France-based digital infrastructure has also been shut down.
Besides Legkodimov, who is believed to be the main manager of Pizzlato, four other people have been arrested in Europe so far. Among them, the CEO, chief financial officer and marketing director of the exchange who were arrested in Spain, and another person handcuffed in Cyprus, Europol disclosed anonymously.
Police conducted eight home searches, half of them in Spain, one address in the United States, two in Portugal, and one in Cyprus. Wallets worth 18 million euros ($19.5 million) in cryptocurrency, vehicles and electronic equipment were seized and more than 100 accounts on other exchanges were frozen, for a total of 50 million euros.
Europol claims that nearly half of Bitzlato’s transactions are related to crime
Little known outside the Russian-speaking market, Bitzlato operates globally, Europol said, facilitating the rapid conversion of digital currencies, including bitcoin, ethereum, litecoin, bitcoin cash, dash, dogecoin and tether, into rubles. According to quoted estimates, the platform has received €2.1 billion worth of assets.
“While the conversion of crypto assets into fiat currencies is not illegal, investigations into cybercriminal operators indicated that large amounts of criminal assets were passing through the platform,” the agency explained and highlighted:
The analysis indicated that about 46% of the assets traded via Bitzlato, worth around 1 billion euros, had links to criminal activities.
The majority of the suspicious transactions were related to entities sanctioned by the US Department of Justice’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), and the remainder were related to various crimes including scams and ransomware attacks.
According to Europol, 1.5 million BTC transactions took place between Bitzlato users and the darknet market Hydra, which closed in April 2022. On January 1st. On the 18th, US officials described Bitzlato’s removal as a “blow to crypto crime,” which was dealt with by “an international cryptocurrency enforcement measure.”
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