The New Zealand police have seized NZ$140 million (around $90.08 million) from the bank accounts controlled by Alexander Vinnik and his company Canton Business Corporation in the country’s largest money-laundering bust.
Vinnik previously operated in-famous cryptocurrency exchange BTC-e. Multiple global agencies opened investigations against the exchange for not maintaining any anti-money laundering (AML) controls and policies.
BTC-e had allegedly facilitated a safe platform for criminals to exchange crypto for fiat, thus laundering funds obtained from a range of criminal activities including computer hacking, ransomware attacks, theft, fraud, corruption, and drug crime. According to authorities, at least $4 billion worth Bitcoins were traded in the Bitcoin exchange.
The massive bust by the New Zealand police was a part of the global investigation into the shady cryptocurrency exchange.
“New Zealand Police has worked closely with the Internal Revenue Service of the United States to address this very serious offending,” New Zealand Police Commissioner Andrew Coster said in a press statement.
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“These funds are likely to reflect the profit gained from the victimization of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of people globally as a result of cyber-crime and organized crime.”
Countries fighting for Vinnik’s custody
Meanwhile, Vinnik was arrested in July 2017 in Greece under an extradition warrant from the United States. But with a tussle between multiple jurisdictions for his custody, he ended up in France last December.
He is likely to face a trial in France for money laundering and extortion offenses and then might face the same in the United States court. If found guilty, he is looking at a maximum jail term of 55 years.
According to the United States indictment, BTC-e was registered in the Seychelles Islands and web domains registered to shell companies in multiple jurisdictions.
The funds obtained in New Zealand were seized under the country’s Criminal Proceeds Recovery Act and now a High Court will decide their fate.
“The global criminal community need to understand New Zealand’s financial system, and companies established here, are not the places to try to hide illicit income,” the Police Commissioner added.