The police in New Zealand has seized NZD 140 million (around $90 million) in assets linked to Alexander Vinnik, the controller of now defunct BTC-e crypto exchange, the New Zealand Herald reported on 22 June.
According to the publication, the recovered funds were controlled by a New Zealand-registered company, which was connected to the investigation of Vinnik. The country’s Asset Recovery Unit, which has been coordinating with the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS), froze the funds due to an investigation into the activities of the BTC-e exchange and its operators.
Police Commissioner Andrew Coster said in a statement:
“New Zealand Police has worked closely with the Internal Revenue Service of the United States to address this very serious offending. These funds are likely to reflect the profit gained from the victimisation of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of people globally as a result of cyber-crime and organised crime.”
Vinnik, also known as “Mr. Bitcoin”, was allegedly the one in control of BTC-e, a cryptocurrency exchange which was accused of laundering around 300,000 Bitcoins (roughly worth $4 billion) for criminal enterprises. He was arrested in July 2017, while on a holiday with his family in Greece, on extradition orders from the U.S., and earlier this year was extradited to France.
For his alleged involvement in the laundering scheme, officials in France have already charged Vinnik with counts of extortion, aggravated money laundering, conspiracy and harming automatic data-processing systems. It is likely that Vinnik will be extradited to the United States after the conclusion of his trial in France. The U.S. State Department reportedly wishes to question Vinnik regarding the 2014 Mt. Gox hack, and the subsequent theft of Bitcoins allegedly traced to his personal crypto wallet.