Europol said that European law enforcement officials have arrested four more members of the executive team of the cryptocurrency exchange Bitzlato. According to the police agency, over fifty percent of the payments transferred through the platform were linked to various illegal operations.
Bitzlato Senior Management Exchange Infrastructure is Dismantled in Europe
Executives of the recently shut down cryptocurrency exchange Bitzlato have been arrested as part of an international investigation involving law enforcement and judicial officials from many European nations.
According to a news release issued by the European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation (Europol) on Monday, Belgium, Cyprus, Portugal, Spain, and the Netherlands also participated in the operation led by the United States and France.
The agency stressed that the Hong Kong-registered coin trading site is accused of enabling the laundering of substantial quantities of illegal money. The United States stated last week that Anatoly Legkodymov, a Russian national residing in China, was arrested in Miami. Its digital infrastructure in France was also shut down.
In addition to Legkodymov, who is considered to be Bitzlato’s chief administrator, four additional men have been arrested in Europe. Europol detailed, without revealing their identities, the CEO, financial director, and marketing director of the exchange who were arrested in Spain, as well as another individual arrested in Cyprus.
Police have performed eight residential searches, with half of them occurring in Spain, one in the United States, two in Portugal, and one in Cyprus. Wallets containing €18 million ($19.5 million) worth of cryptocurrency, automobiles, and technological equipment have been seized, while over 100 accounts on other exchanges have been suspended, totaling €50 million.
Europol asserts that nearly half of Bitzlato transactions involve criminal activity.
Bitzlato, which was relatively unknown outside the Russian-speaking market, operated globally, according to Europol, facilitating the rapid conversion of digital currencies such as bitcoin, ethereum, litecoin, bitcoin cash, dash, dogecoin, and tether into rubles. According to estimates, the platform got assets worth a total of €2.1 billion.
“Although the conversion of crypto assets into fiat currencies is not unlawful, investigations into cybercriminal operators revealed that huge volumes of criminal assets passed through the platform,” the agency clarified and emphasized.
The analysis revealed that around 46% of the approximately €1 billion in assets moved via Bitzlato had linkages to illicit activity.
The bulk of suspicious transactions were tied to entities sanctioned by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) of the U.S. Department of Justice, while the remainder were associated with different crimes, such as frauds and ransomware attacks.
According to Europol, there were 1.5 million BTC transactions between Bitzlato users and the closed darknet market Hydra in April 2022. On January 18, U.S. officials described the removal of Bitzlato as a “international cryptocurrency enforcement effort” that dealt a “blow to crypto criminality.”