The cryptography that keeps Bitcoin transactions secure also makes the currency potentially useful for criminals because it is so difficult to regulate.
Today, Police in Greece announced that they were detaining a Russian man suspected of laundering at least four billion dollars by transferring cash from criminal activities into bitcoin.
Alexander Vinnik, 38, is being detained by Greek police under a U.S. warrant and will likely be extradited to the United States. There he’ll could face charges including conspiracy, money laundering, transferring money without a license, and making transactions in cash from illegal activities.
Thanks to a tip, the Greek police were able to locate Vinnik in a small coastal village in northern Greece.
It was there that he was arrested and several of his electronics were confiscated. In a statement, the police said that “Since 2011 the 38-year-old has been running a criminal organization which administers one of the most important websites of electronic crime in the world.”
Vinnik allegedly operated a website used by many criminals to convert dirty cash into bitcoin. The website had at least 7 million bitcoins deposited and 5.5 million bitcoins had been withdrawn. Police said that the website “legalizes proceeds from illegal activities.”
Many suspect that Vinnik may also operate the large cryptocurrency trade platform BTC-e.
The site has been down for the past day, with users receiving a message that the site is “under maintenance.” A recent report by USA Today revealed that the vast majority of bitcoin ransomware is exchanged through BTC-e.
When asked about the case, the Russian Foreign Ministry in Moscow said that they were not aware of Vinnik and had no information to share.
Not the only one
The United States is also trying to extradite another Russian, Peter Levashov, from Spain for similar crimes, although the cases appear to be unrelated.
U.S. prosecutors say that Levashov managed a network of thousands of computers used by hackers.