BTC-e, one of the most cryptic crypto exchanges, has been ‘under maintenance’ for a day now, which has led many of its users to express fears that the platform has been hacked. But it now seems that another explanation for the disappearance of the exchange is emerging.
Greek police have arrested a Russian man suspected of running a $4 billion money laundering operation related to illicit business activities with Bitcoin, according to a just-released Reuters report.
Police did not name the 38-year-old, who was arrested on Monday on a US warrant, but many in the cryptocurrency community online suspect that he was the operator of BTC-e.
He is suspected of heading a criminal organization since 2011 that “owns, operates and manages one of the world’s leading e-crime websites”, police said in a statement.
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UPDATE: The suspect’s name is Alexander Vinnik.
Coincidentally, BTC-E was founded in 2011, and yesterday a report appeared in USA Today claiming research found that 95% of the ransomware related to Bitcoin went through BTC-E.
The American newspaper quoted Damon McCoy, a New York University computer science and engineering professor, who said: “It’s hard for law enforcement to put pressure on BTC-E because it’s a Russian-operated bitcoin exchange.”
There is very little public information about BTC-e and its operators despite it being one of the longest running exchanges and having a large base of customers. As such it is liable to be the subject of many rumours, especially after going dark for so many hours.
US authorities have been on a global hunt for Bitcoin markets operating in the dark recently. Less than two weeks ago, the alleged founder of AlphaBay was found dead in a Thai prison hours before his deportation hearing to the US.