Washington, (EFE).- FBI agents arrested the founder and majority owner of the Bitzlato cryptocurrency exchange platform, Anatoly Legkodymov, on Tuesday night in Miami for an alleged operation to transport and transmit illicit funds.
The Department of Justice indicated this Wednesday at a press conference that the detainee, a Russian national, faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison.
Simultaneously with the announced arrest, the French authorities, in collaboration with Europol and its partners in Spain, Portugal and Cyprus, have dismantled Bitzlato’s digital infrastructure and seized its cryptocurrency, among other measures.
Legkodymov, a resident of Shenzhen, China, was arrested in the United States for crimes committed in the latter country.
The US Department of Justice suspects that Bitlzato was used for money laundering and as a “refuge” for proceeds and funds destined for criminal activities.
The company failed to implement the safeguards required by US law that allow authorities to detect and investigate financial crimes. Instead, it facilitated the transmission of hundreds of millions of dollars in illicit funds that fed into darknet markets.
Its main counterparty in cryptocurrency transactions was Hydra Market, an “anonymous and illicit digital marketplace for narcotics, stolen financial information, fraudulent identity documents, and money laundering services.”
Hydra was considered the world’s largest and longest-running darknet marketplace, and its users traded over $700 million worth of cryptocurrency with Bitzlato, either directly or through intermediaries, until U.S. and German law enforcement they closed it in April 2022.
“Let this serve as a reminder to cybercriminals: regardless of where they are and how far they cover, there is risk and consequence,” FBI Associate Deputy Director Brian Turner told reporters in Washington.
The Justice Department said that Bitzlato’s clients often used its customer service portal to request help with Hydra transactions and admitted that they were not acting under their true identities.
US Treasury Undersecretary Wally Adeyemo added that Bitzlato repeatedly facilitated transactions for Russia-affiliated ransomware groups, such as Conti, which has ties to the Russian government and connected darknet marketplaces. with Russia.
Nearly 50% of the known activity on that platform between 2019 and 2021 involved illicit Russian funding or other controversial sources.
“Russia is a haven for cybercriminals. (…) At a time when it is waging a brutal and unjust war in Ukraine, and as it seeks to circumvent sanctions and governance controls to fill its coffers and sustain its violence, we do not tolerate criminal enterprises that enrich their malign interests.” Adeyemo said.
Bitzlato’s inclusion on the US money laundering “concern” list makes it an international “pariah,” he added, and imposes special measures on covered financial institutions, prohibiting them from transferring funds to or from Bitzlato, or from any account or wallet. administered by or on its behalf.