Alexander Vinnik, the 38-year-old Russian man who is accused of being behind the BTC-e virtual currency exchange and bitcoin laundering $4 billion or more, has reportedly been arrested in Greece.
According to a news report in Reuters, Vinnik was arrested after a tip-off that led police to a small beachside village in Northern Greece. The U.S., noted the report, plans to extradite Vinnik, who two sources told Reuters is the key person behind the cryptocurrency platform that was down since earlier this week.
“An internationally sought ‘mastermind’ of a crime organization has been arrested,” Greek police said in a statement, according to Reuters. “Since 2011, the 38-year-old has been running a criminal organization which administers one of the most important websites of electronic crime in the world.”
Reuters cited police as saying $4 billion or more in virtual currency had been laundered through the platform since 2011, which was the year it was founded.
The arrest of the Russian money launderer comes just a few days after American and European authorities, working cooperatively, shut down two of the largest online cryptocurrency black markets, where cybercrime reigned — AlphaBay and Hansa Market. Their respective operators have also been arrested. AlphaBay has been down since early July, following the arrest of founder Alexandre Cazes, a Canadian national living in Bangkok.
Cazes — who was 25 years old — reportedly committed suicide in jail shortly after being incarcerated. The fall of AlphaBay pushed many eclectic shoppers to Hansa Market, the dark web Walmart to AlphaBay’s evil Amazon.
But Dutch police, through their own cybersecurity efforts, reported that Hansa Market has been under their control since June and that the last several weeks they’ve been operating the site and monitoring the vendors and customers. All in all, they’ve managed to collect information on people involved in the 50,000 or so transactions that took place. Two cybercriminals in Germany were arrested as the operators of Hansa (their nationality seems to be unknown).