US Files Lawsuit Against Bitcoin Exchange That Helped Launder Ransomware Profits

The U.S. Department of Justice has filed a civil lawsuit seeking to recover more than $100 million from a notorious cryptocurrency exchange that has helped cyber-criminals launder stolen funds, such as those obtained from ransomware payments, dark web drug marketplaces, and funds from hacked cryptocurrency exchanges. ZDNet reports: In a lawsuit filed on Friday, July 26, the U.S. wants to recover $88,596,314 from the accounts of the now-defunct BTC-e cryptocurrency exchange, and an additional $12 million from Alexander “Mr. Bitcoin” Vinnick, BTC-e’s founder and CEO. The sum represents a fine that was imposed by the U.S. Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) in 2017 when the FBI shut down the BTC-e portal, and Greek authorities arrested Vinnick. For the past two years, the DOJ has been trying to extradite Vinnick to the U.S. to face charges, but with no success. The DOJ’s civil lawsuit is an alternative legal method to make sure the U.S. Treasury FinCEN recovers its due fine in the case U.S. authorities opened in 2017.

Those fines were imposed because BTC-e violated the Bank Secrecy Act (BSA). First by not registering with U.S. authorities as a Money Services Business (MSB), even if it catered to U.S. consumers. Second, for failing to implement an anti-money laundering (AML) program in accordance with U.S. and many other international standards. And third, for failing to file any suspicious activity report (SAR) for the numerous shady transactions that have happened on its platform. When authorities charged Vinnick and shut down BTC-e on July 26, 2017, the DOJ said that the platform, which claimed on its website to have handled over $7 billion worth of Bitcoin in its lifetime, had laundered criminal proceeds of more than $4 billion, representing more than half of the funds that have ever gone through its accounts.

After the BTC-e shutdown, it was revealed at the Black Hat USA 2017 security conference that 95% of all ransomware ransom payments that had been made up until that point had been cashed out and converted into fiat currency through Vinnik’s BTC-e portal.