European law enforcement agencies have detained four more members of the executive team of crypto exchange Bitzlato, Europol announced. According to the law enforcement agency, about half of the funds processed through the platform were related to various criminal activities.
Bitzlato’s senior management was targeted in Europe and the exchange infrastructure was dismantled
Recently exposed high-ranking Bitzlato executives were arrested as part of an international investigation into crypto exchanges, with the participation of law enforcement and judicial authorities from several European countries.
According to a press release issued by the European Union Law Enforcement Cooperation Agency (Europol) on Monday, the operation, led by the United States and France, also involved Belgium, Cyprus, Portugal, Spain and the Netherlands.
A coin trading platform registered in Hong Kong is suspected of facilitating the laundering of large amounts of criminal proceeds, the agency stressed. Last week, the US announced the arrest in Miami of the company’s co-founder and majority owner, Anatoly Legkodymov, a Russian national residing in China. The company’s digital infrastructure in France was also shut down.
In addition to Legkodymov, who is believed to be the primary administrator of Bitzlato, four others have been detained in Europe so far. These include the exchange’s CEO, finance director, and marketing director, who were arrested in Spain, and another in handcuffs in Cyprus, Europol detailed without revealing their identities.
Police conducted eight raids, half of them in Spain, one in the United States, two in Portugal, and one in Cyprus; wallets, vehicles, and electronic devices containing €18 million ($19.5 million) worth of cryptocurrency were seized and more than 100 accounts at other exchanges were frozen, totaling 50 million euros are involved.
Almost half of Bitzlato transactions related to crime, Europol claims
Little known outside of Russian-speaking markets, Bitzlato operates globally and allows for the quick conversion of digital currencies such as Bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin, Bitcoin Cash, Dash, Dogcoin, and Tether into rubles, according to Europol stated. According to the quoted estimates, the platform had received a total of 2.1 billion euros worth of assets.
“Although the conversion of crypto assets into Fiat currency is not illegal, investigations into cybercriminal operators showed that a large amount of criminal assets were passing through the platform,” the agency elaborated and stressed.
Analysis showed that about 46% of the assets exchanged through Bitzlato, worth approximately €1 billion, were linked to criminal activity.
The majority of the suspicious transactions were associated with entities sanctioned by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), while the remainder were associated with various crimes, including fraud and ransomware attacks.
According to Europol, 1.5 millionBTCtransactions took place between Bitzlato users and the darknet marketplace Hydra, which closed in April 2022.On January 18, U.S. authorities announced a Bitzlato takedown, describing it as a “blow to crypto crime” brought about by “international cryptocurrency enforcement actions.”
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