Polish authorities seized 1.27 billion Polish zlotys (approx. 371 million dollars) from two companies on Friday on suspicion of money laundering for Colombian drug cartels. Some in the media have linked the companies to cryptocurrency exchange Bitfinex.
Companies C and M
According to local news source tvp.info, the money was taken from the accounts of two companies registered in Pruszków. One is owned by a Canadian of Panamanian descent (“company M”) and the other by a Colombian with Panamanian citizenship (“company C”).
The whole affair apparently began because of a scam perpetrated against a Belgian government ministry.
The Belgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs was in the process of building a new embassy in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Company M impersonated the building contractor and intercepted the 400,000-euro bill. The ministry found the culprit through an investigation carried out in conjunction with Interpol. The investigation also revealed that company M was associated with company C, and that company C was in turn associated with “a large online exchange of cryptocurrencies”.
Polish authorities have discovered that the two companies do not function as businesses, apparently existing solely to launder money for international criminal activity – specifically, cocaine. The report says: “The scale of financial operations indicates that these bills were to hide money from smuggling cocaine to Europe. The companies were also used for large scale scams. Criminals have hidden their operations, also exchanging money for cryptocurrencies, obliterating traces.”
In addition to the sum confiscated from C and M, 9.5 million zlotys denominated in various currencies was secured by authorities from a wider network of related companies.
Zbigniew Ziobro, Prosecutor General, said: “The money probably comes from international drug trafficking, as well as large-scale fraud. It was deposited at a branch of one of the banks in the accounts of two companies registered in Poland.”
The bank referred to was a “small co-operative bank in Lodz”, according to tvp.info. Spidersweb.pl specifically mentions Banku Spółdzielczym w Skierniewicach – the bank where Bitfinex is registered.
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Bitfinex opened its Polish bank account in November 2017 in order to begin trading euro pairs.
We are pleased to announce trading is now live on our first Euro pair, BTC:EUR https://t.co/Y6sW7pRmEl
— Bitfinex (@bitfinex) November 22, 2017
Even then, things seemed dodgy. The company name under which the account was registered, Crypto SP, is located in Panama. An article in Trustnodes found (citing “internet sleuths”) that Crypto SP is owned by Crypto Capital Corp, the director of which is one Ivan Manual Molina Lee. Evidence suggests that this individual could be a professional stand-in for people who don’t want their real names attached to operations.
The case is ongoing.
A representative from Bitfinex contacted Finance Magnates with the following statement:
“Bitfinex can confirm that it is aware of the current allegations that have been reported by Polish media over the past several hours.
Bitfinex believes that these allegations are untrue and Bitfinex customers and operations are unaffected by false rumors. Bitfinex is proud to be the world’s leading crypto exchange, and in this capacity works tirelessly to remain in strict compliance with authorities and regulators worldwide.”