FBI vs. BTC-e: how the largest Russian crypto-exchange collapsed
The Greek Areopagus upheld the decision of the court in Thessaloniki to extradite Russian Alexander Vinnik, who is considered the owner of the BTC-e crypto-exchange. RBC magazine found other of its possible beneficiaries and found out what Vinnik was doing.
Athens, December 6, 2017. The meeting room of Areopagus - the highest cassation instance of Greece. On the dais, seated on the public from a ten-meter height, seven judges are sat. Without pauses, they consider one case after another. The doors to the hall are open: as in ancient times, anyone can freely enter the room and assess the justice of the judging.
In the corner in handcuffs two foreigners are waiting for their turn: the United States seeks the extradition of both. Fate brought together a Chinese citizen who was trying to buy American army antennas in Greece, and Russian Alexander Vinnik: the Northern District Court of California calls him the owner of the BTC-e crypto-exchange, through which cybercriminals laundered money.
In the US, 38-year-old Vinnik, who spent in custody about six months, faces 55 years in prison: in his speech at the trial, he directly calls such a term lifelong. To rescue Vinnik Areopag met with a whole landing: Russian lawyer Timofey Musatov and three Greek lawyers, including ex-deputy of the local parliament Alexandros Likurezos.
Next to Vinnik the translator tries, he hardly keeps up with the eloquent Greek lawyers. The accused himself gives the impression of a person of saturnine temper: he follows the process with restraint and without emotion. He answers bone-dryly the questions of the presiding judge in the Areopagus. "Why do not you want to be extradited to the US?" "There is no independent justice in the United States for the Russians." "What was the nature of your relations with the discussed platform [BTC-e]?" - "I'm a technical expert, I've provided consulting services."
Before the collapse in the summer of 2017 BTC-e was among the top 20 largest cryptoexchange in the world and was the most popular among Russian-speaking users. In the six years of its existence, about 700.000 people have used the services of BTC-e - they bought or sold more than 9.4 million bitcoins, according to the Northern District Court of California. If in 2012 the monthly trading volume on the site was $1 million, by 2016 the scale has grown to $6 million per day (data of Bitcoincharts). The trading platform with each transaction took 0.2-0.5% of commission.
About the fact that Vinnik was related to the BTC-e, even the ‘veterans’ who had been trading on the site since its foundation did not know before the arrest. The administration of the BTC-e always remained anonymous, and among the likely owners there emerged the names of a certain inhabitant of Crimea, a DJ of a Moscow karaoke club, or a builder from a village in the Zaporozhye region of Ukraine. But this list has never been either complete or truthful.
RBC magazine tried to find out who could stand at the origins of the exchange, who served its needs, and what role in the work of BTC-e was played by arrested in Greece Vinnik.
"In the 15th house - the Moskvichka store, in the 17th - Charodeika, between them a yellow arch under the advertisement Tri lva. Mekha, go into it. On the security it is necessary to say that you are going to WMExpress, and please specify to whom you are going - to Alexey or Alexander." This instruction was published in the middle of the 2000s on the site of a Moscow-based company dealing with transactions in the WebMoney system. The Alexander indicated in the announcement is Alexander Vinnik.
The future hero of the international criminal chronicle was born in the Kurgan region. In the early 2000s, he moved with his mother to Moscow, told his first wife Natalya Molokova to RBC. Vinnik decided to try his luck in the Internet business. At first, he could work under the nickname kurganlab: in particular, it was he who registered the only possible Vinnik account in social networks - in Moi Mir (My World). One of the first kurganlab projects was the site Prazdnikovovedenie.ru, where toasts and congratulations were published.
Soon, the IT entrepreneur moved on to more profitable activities - servicing transactions between electronic payment services, which were then still a curiosity. In 2004 there was a site Wm-Exchanger.com (now does not open): the domain was registered in the mail email@example.com, in the Contacts section the ICQ number was given, which Vinnik could use. The website published price tags for transactions, for example, the cost of transferring from the ruble purse to the dollar inside WebMoney or from the E-Gold system to the same WebMoney. The young businessman earned on commissions with every transfer.
Vinnik could publish his services in profile communities under the name WME, which can be deciphered as WebMoney Exchanger. Many Moscow IT professionals knew him exactly under this virtual name: "When he was arrested in Greece, they began to say: "So it's Sasha-WME," the owner of a large payment service recalls. The same nickname was later mentioned into the indictment of the American court.
In 2006, Vinnik changed the free schedule for office work in WMExpress. "I knew him [Vinnik] as our client and invited him [to work]," said permanent director and owner of WMExpress Andrey Klimov to RBC magazine. In a room on Novy Arbat, Vinnik worked for about three years, helping clients to receive banknotes instead of electronic money.
Despite his regular work, Vinnik did not abandon his Wm-Exchanger business: in addition to accounts in electronic payment services, he had bank accounts in offshore zones, which made his services popular - there were five or six of such people in the whole Russia, Klimov recalls.
The clients of such intermediaries were Forex market participants, programmers and freelance designers - all whose activities at that time were connected with the payment of labor by electronic money. Soon, exchange services were in favor with hackers and carders (scammers who steal information from bank cards), says ex-colleague of Vinnik on WMExpress. According to him, the company sometimes received requests from law enforcement agencies about some clients from this sphere.
Vinnik himself was neither a programmer, nor even a specialist in hacking computer systems, say two interlocutors from WMExpress. He always specialized in financial transactions, he constantly "looked for and sought out" new opportunities for earning, his acquaintance recalls. 2010-s gave Vinnik a truly revolutionary way - bitcoin.
In October 2011, the user WME left his first post on the largest specialized crypto forum Bitcointalk.org: "I have been engaged in exchanges for more than ten years, now I started working with bitcoins. I can exchange them for anything. I give a head start to cash in Moscow <...>, the dollar transfer from offshore and other options. I give preference to large sums."
BTC-e, which later played a fatal role in Vinnik's life, had existed for several months by the time the post was written.
"You have a very scary and absolutely unreliable logo," one of Bitcointalk.org user commented in August 2011 in response to a proposal to test the new BTC-e trading platform. One of the administrators of the exchange, who communicated with the community under the name btc-e.com, promised three bitcoins to the author of the best symbol. There were no works at all. Perhaps, no one was impressed by the amount of the reward: then three coins could be exchanged at best for $30.
The first online stock exchange for bitcoins, Japanese Mt. Gox, began work in 2010 - a year after the production of the first batch of digital currency. The creators of BTC-e got their project to the point: for example, in the same summer of 2011, American Kraken and European Bitstamp appeared, both now enter the top 10 largest trading crypts (data of Bitcoincharts).
Unlike competitors, BTC-e, launched in 2011, was geared towards the Russian-speaking audience. The immigrants from the post-Soviet space were immediately attracted by the absence of a language barrier, the trader recalls, third user Evgeny who registered at BTC-e (he asked not to indicate his surname). Moreover, the stock exchange was chosen due to the possibility to transfer bitcoins into rubles, another old BTC-e user, businessman Mikhail Solomatin (who registered on the site as the fifth one), assumes in conversation with RBC magazine.
The national currency of Russia could be turned into digital money not only by a non-cash way: the exchange immediately and formally offered users cash delivery in Moscow. The minimum amount that the courier was ready to carry was from 15.000 rubles ($253). For the convenience users had to pay - the commission for the cash withdrawal was 7%. For comparison: through QIWI it was possible to receive rubles for 4%, and through transfer to the account in Sberbank - 6%, it follows from the posts of the administrator of BTC-e to Bitcointalk.org.
Thanks to Russianness the exchange quickly gained popularity. When, after a year of work, it was translated into English, the daily turnover of trades in bitcoins reached $60.000 at a price of $10 apiece. Users were drawn more and more actively: in 2013 the indicator grew to $600 thousand, in 2014 - to $2 million (data of Bitcoincharts). In August 2016, the total daily trading volume of various crypto-currencies at BTC-e reached $ 0.4 million, and in June 2017 it exceeded $66 million (Coinmarketcap’s statistics).
The exchange has consistently been among the twenty largest sites in the world in terms of total turnover. With each operation, the BTC-e held a commission of 0.2-0.5%. Thus, on peak days of 2017, with a daily turnover of $66 million, the profit from transactions could be varied from $240.000.
The beneficiaries were hiding. Some users were satisfied with this anonymity for ideological reasons, says the second registered user, programmer Roman (also asked not to mention his last name): cryptoeconomics is generally considered to be free from total control - this is a whole religion created by the unknown under the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto.
However, law enforcement agencies are not up to ideology. The lack of a customer identification system, according to the Northern District Court of California, attracted cybercriminals. At the purse in BTC-e payments of users whose computers were infected with the virus CryptoWall, which blocked the operation of the operating system before the payment of bitcoins to attackers (the virus was distributed in 2013-2014) were transferred. On BTC-e, the hacking group Fancy Bear purchased crypto currency to pay for servers, from which the attacks were made later, for example, on the computers of the German parliament, BBC reported.
They did not share the craving for anonymity and some BTC-e users - they periodically conducted their own investigations, trying to find out who was behind the site. The name of Vinnik in these studies did not come up once, but there was another – Svetleishiy (the Serene).
At any time of year, guests of Alushta can rent a room in a one-story private house: in a room with modern furniture, repairs are made; bedspreads with leopard prints are put on the bed. You need to negotiate the rent with the owners of the house - their phones are published on the sites to find housing. One of them is the 39-year-old resident of the Crimea, Dmitry Svetleishiy. He allegedly became the founder of the BTC-e exchange, according to public information.
The main domain BTC-e.com (the historical data of the Whois service) was registered for about two and a half years on Svetleishiy. On him, a year before the stock market, the portal Smallarena.com was recorded, where you could play StarCraft II for money. The design and structure of the first page of the site were very similar to the external appearance of BTC-e. Finally, on behalf of Svetleishiy an announcement was posted on the Freelance.ru portal about the translation of BTC-e into English.
Svetleishiy, when the correspondent of RBC magazine called him, silently listened to the arguments about his involvement in the exchange, and then remarked: "I had nothing to do with it. You will call my friend and companion and explain everything." He refused to answer any further questions.
Companion was 40-year-old Konstantin Voronchikhin. To the correspondent of the RBC magazine, he introduced himself as "a man from the 1990s". In the first half of the 2000s Voronchikhin was engaged in the agricultural business (data of the Ukrainian YouControl system), and in 2005 the Simferopol Prosecutor's Office accused him of attempting to illegally capture the construction company Specialized mechanized column No. 575, during which the ex-director of the company was allegedly beaten, the Crimean media wrote. After the initiation of the criminal case, Voronchikhin left Ukraine and now, according to him, is living in one of the countries of Asia.
Smallarena is a project of one of Voronchikhin's team members, created together with programmers from Eastern Ukraine: the partners met just on the basis of StarCraft II's passion. To register a gaming site in 2010, they used passport data and a purse in Webmoney of Svetleishiy, Voronchikhin recalls.
The same Ukrainian programmers could later use the name and address of Svetleishiy when creating the BTC-e, Voronchikhin believes and immediately specifies: he and the "companion" found out about this after the arrest of Vinnik and the angry messages of the clients of the exchange in social networks. Voronchikhin also claims that he does not know the names of the programmers who borrowed the data of Svetleishiy from the cryptoportal.
A person under the nickname ne0n could be commected with Smallarena: such a conclusion can be made after the analysis of correspondence on the forum of the game site Peka2.tv. Likewise, ne0n, they addressed one of the exchange's administrators in the BTC-e chat in the first months, although he communicated with the audience already under the name dev. Dev-ne0n was responsible for the technical part of the crypto site, his colleague support - for financial issues. At first, both founders were "rather open", the user of the Solomatin exchange recalls. In particular, they told one of the interlocutors of the RBC magazine that they spent $20 thousand on launching the BTC-e.
In 2013, in an anonymous interview with Coindesk.com, administrators said that BTC-e was founded by programmers Alexey and Alexander, who worked in the Skolkovo technopark earlier. The support was really treated like Alexey, recall two ‘veterans’ of the exchange. The identity of dev-ne0n was not revealed.
RBC magazine found in the exchange chat archive an example, when support responded to Alexey - December 31, 2011, at the same time he shared his willingness to sell 49% of the gaining popularity of the stock exchange. The deal could take place in 2012-2013, when BTC-e made a breakthrough both in terms of trading volumes and in terms of functionality: according to one of the interlocutors of RBC magazine, the site had investors - in private online conversations dev and support complained that some of the issues they "do not longer solve".
Approximately at that time, in 2013, specialist on exchange operations Vinnik and forex-company FXOpen began to cooperate closely with the BTC-e.
Moscow, 2013. Vinnik meets with an employee of the registered in Great Britain company Mayzus Financial Services (MFS), owned by Russian Sergey Mayzus. Before the beginning of the conversation, the representative of MFS asks Vinnik to show the passport to make sure that he is really who he claims to be. "The purpose of the meeting was to get acquainted and discuss the services necessary for BTC-e," the MFS director explained to the Greek Areopag on December 6, 2017.
MFS belongs to the payment systems OkPay and MoneyPolo. Through them, users of BTC-e could replenish their accounts on the site - along with Yandex.Money and other services. However, MFS had one exclusive service: BTC-e users could make the transfer directly from the bank account, bypassing the conversion into electronic money. Lovers of bitcoins did not know who was the final recipient of funds from BTC-e, thanks to the presence of the first intermediary in the form of MFS.
In 2013, after the meeting with Vinnik, MFS opened accounts of several companies, in particular English Always Efficient and Seychelles Canton Business - these companies "provided services under the BTC-e brand", it follows from an explanatory note. Canton Business, judging by the indictment of the Northern District Court of California, is the "offshore management company" of the exchange. And Always Efficient since mid-2015 was listed on the BTC-e site as the official site operator (WayBack Machine’s data).
In addition to the accounts opened for law firms, at the same time, the accounts of two private individuals entered into the company of Mayzus, were registered, as indicated in the note sent to the Athens court. Both were registered "as management bodies," that is, company executives. Always Efficient was represented by 30-year-old Alexander Buyanov, and 37-year-old Stanislav Golovanov - Canton Business.
To talk with Buyanov, the correspondent of RBC magazine went to the Moscow karaoke bar Shishas on Novy Arbat, where he works as a DJ: to talk about crypto-currencies, he had to go out into the street, making his way through the dancers. The owner of a fashionable beard and famously twirled mustache, Buyanov does not look like the owner of the exchange with a turnover of millions of dollars. The DJ insists that, up to scandalous news, he did not know about the existence of BTC-e, Always Efficient and that he was its leader.
RBC could not get in touch with formal head of Canton Business Golovanov. Unlike the Moscow DJ, who only found out about Vinnyk six months ago, Golovanov might have known him: according to RBC magazine, it was the apartment of the future manager of Canton Business in the north of Moscow where Vinnik and his mother could be registered at the beginning 2000s, when they moved from Kurgan.
Representatives of MFS never spoke either with Buyanov or Golovanov: as it follows from the explanatory note, all matters related to the cooperation of the company Maysus and BTC-e, were solved with Vinnik remotely.
The IT entrepreneur himself repeatedly stated in court that he only advised the exchange as a "technical expert". All communication went through the Internet, he does not know the names of his interlocutors from the trading platform, Vinnik told the correspondent of RBC magazine, while he waited for the meeting of the Areopagus. On the question whether he gave recommendations only on the issues of conducting exchange operations and withdrawal-input of funds, the Russian responded: "And not only." He does not remember the exact date for starting cooperation with the stock exchange: "Maybe before 2013".
The cash flow from BTC-e users was filtered not only by MFS. Offshore firms probably connected with Vinnik and which opened accounts in the company of Mayzus in 2013, sent funds to the next instance.
In May 2017, the administration of BTC-e took the first step towards abolishing the basic principle - the ability to buy and sell crypto currency anonymously, indicating only e-mail when registering. Users were offered to undergo voluntary verification in exchange for a number of advantages in the replenishment of personal accounts: for the development of the virtualization it was necessary to provide a scan of passports and, for example, copies of utility bills. It was necessary to pass the procedure not on BTC-e, but on another trading platform with a similar name - xBTCe.com, which may be connected with the company FXOpen.
FXOpen was founded in the mid-2000s. The holding, which unites a network of legal entities from Russia, Latvia, Great Britain, New Zealand and other countries, provides services for trading on the foreign exchange market (Forex). The Russian division of the group is headed by Elena Isaeva, the Deputy Expert of Advisory Council under the Budget Committee of the Federation Council. In various online ratings based on broker ratings, FXOpen is among the top 20 global companies.
The cooperation between FXOpen and BTC-e began in 2013, when the clients of the exchange were able to trade the BTC/USD currency pair via the MetaTraider platform, and since 2014 users had the opportunity to give the crypto-currency to the trader management (so-called PAMM accounts). All software for 'pumping BTC-e was provided by FXOpen. This service was then not offered by any exchange, so users perceived it as a breakthrough, crypto currency 'veteran' Roman remembers.
In the second half of 2013, two new administrators registered at BTC-e - support5 and support1: they used Latvian IP-addresses of Soft-FX, a member of FXOpen holding company (database of users of the exchange). Support1 subsequently behaved like a moderator and even the banilists of the marketplace participants, follows from the chat archive. "This exchange [BTC-e] is a kindred of FXOpen. That's all," one of its clients Alexander wrote in early 2014.
Kinship could be not only technical, but also financial. In Athens, Mayzus handed over a report to the National Anti-Criminal Agency of Great Britain, prepared by MFS after the scandal with BTC-e, to Areopag, - it analyzed the transactions of Vinnik structures for 2014-2017. Transit money went to the companies related to FXOpen, it follows from the document: only in 2017 the New Zealand company XP Solutions Ltd, connected with the forex holding, received about € 26 million and $900 thousand through MFS.
The beneficiary of FXOpen is 36-year-old native of Belarus Alexander Klimenko. He owns one of the main structures of the holding, British FXOpen Ltd, and the company's trademarks (data of the UK's trade register and the service of Justia Trademarks).
FXOpen "did not own shares in the BTC-e exchange and did not even cooperate with it, but simply provided technical solutions," Klimenko said in a conversation with the RBC correspondent. For all services, including verification through xBTCe.com, the exchange paid the holding, he added, refusing to give specific amounts. When asked if he knew Vinnik personally, Klimenko replied: "Of course, they came to our office". Who exactly represented BTC-e, except Vinnik, the entrepreneur could not remember.
Familiar of Klimenko argue that he lives permanently in Riga. Vinnik, according to RBC magazine, traveled to the Latvian capital at least six times only from February 2016 to May 2017, but Klimenko said that he did not meet with him during this period. Vinnik himself said: "I can not answer this question."
The last trip of Vinnik to Riga for one day was held in May 2017. Two months later, he again went to Europe - this time, along with his family, he flew for a vacation in Greece. And now he can not leave the country.
War of extradition. The US wins
On a hot morning of July 25, 2017, more than a dozen men in shorts, T-shirts and sunglasses came to one of the beaches on the peninsula of Chalkidiki. They could be mistaken for tourists, but they did not go down to the sea for swimming: they were interested in a man who was resting on a sun lounger next to two young sons, Alexandera Shevchenko, the current wife of Vinnik, told RT. So the whole world got wised of Vinnik, whom Greek law enforcement agencies arrested at the request of the US Department of Justice.
In parallel, FBI officers arrested the exchange's servers, which since 2011 were located in the US state of New Jersey. The BTC-e site stopped loading: the domain was seized - now there is a stub with the emblems of various American law enforcement agencies.
The Winston Court of the Northern District of California approved the indictment in January 2017. The arrest could only be effected after the entrepreneur went online with the mobile phone number known to the Americans, RIA Novosti agency wrote. In the US, Vinnik is considered the owner of BTC-e, which cybercriminals used to launder money. The exact amount is not indicated in the charge: it is only written that the cost of bitcoins passed through the exchange exceeds $9 billion. However, in the release of the US Justice Department, published after the arrest of the Russian, another estimate was mentioned - $4 billion.
In particular, US law enforcers believe that Vinnik had to do with the withdrawal of 530.000 bitcoins stolen from 2011 to 2014 from the purses of the Japanese Mt. Gox: 300 thousand were transferred to three accounts on the BTC-e, including WME and Vamnedam, which are associated with Vinnik, stated in the materials of the US court.
The Greeks are considering the issue of Vinnik's extradition slowly. From the beach to Chalkidiki, he was transported to the prison in Thessaloniki: in early October, the council of city judges supported the request of the Americans. But the Russian filed a complaint to a higher authority, the Areopagus, and he was transported to the Athenian prison. The final decision on the extradition of Vinnik was be taken by the Minister of Justice of Greece. He chose the US.
The Ostankino District Court ruled to arrest Vinnik in absentia on charges of Swindling on a large scale (up to 1 million rubles) on August 11, 2017. The basis was a criminal case: Vinnik allegedly did not deliver some equipment to a commercial company, after which its director appealed to the police, it follows from an impersonal arrest order. RBC is talking about the company Rebellion, a representative of the Ostankino court told. In Russia, there is only one company with this name (data from SPARK-Interfax): this Samara firm is engaged in the supply of pipeline fittings, and its director Leonid Mashkov, who allegedly wrote a statement to the police, heard about Vinnik and the criminal case against him for the first time ever. The police of Moscow did not answer questions.
In a similar scenario, five years ago, the employee of Ashmanov&Partners, Dmitry Zubakha, who was detained while resting in Cyprus at the request of the US authorities, was arrested. In the US he was suspected of hacking attacks on Amazon and eBay. Before the end of formal extradition proceedings against Zubakha, a criminal case was opened in Russia, accusing him of stealing money through the Internet. The long consideration of requests for extradition from various countries ended in the victory of Russia: in the spring of 2013 Zubakha was taken to Moscow, where he got a suspended sentence.
On this the similarity of cases does not end: like Zubakha, Vinnik is defended by lawyer Timofey Musatov. In the late 2000s, he represented Natalia Kaspersky in the shareholder conflict of Kaspersky Lab, and now he owns a 10% stake in its company Infotovt Asset Management (data from SPARK-Interfax). Kasperskaya's husband Igor Ashmanov attracted a successful lawyer to get his employee Zubakha out of the prison in Cyprus, Ashmanov wrote in a column on Roem.ru.
Musatov said that he took up the case of Vinnik after the appeal of his wife, who went to him through Zubakha. The latter confirmed that he became an intermediary: Shevchenko read about his Cypriot history and, five to six days after the events on the beach, contacted Musatov. Vinnik's wife pays for legal services, Ashmanov does not participate financially, the lawyer said.
But Ashmanov helped. He did not know Vinnik and did not understand whether he was a criminal or not, but the businessman does not like that the US "considers the whole world to be its jurisdiction". "I helped them with connections, helped them down with different people, including state ones," Ashmanov said.
Exchange from bankrupt
At the end of August, the BTC-e exchanges published a photo in a Twitter account: three people stand with their backs on them, T-shirts with the inscription I believe in BTC-e. In the background - a press wave with the name of the conference "Blockchain - the new oil of Russia", which was held in Innopolis. The picture blew up profile forums: angry clients of the closed exchange started an investigation, trying to figure out which of the owners of BTC-e said them "hello."
After the collapse, the administration of the exchange reduced the communication with users to its account on Bitcointalk.org. Vinnik was not "neither a manager, nor a service employee," but access to databases and purses was received, the administration reported in the summer. Information on access to the database has inspired customers with the hope that BTC-e had backup servers, but in August they missed their money too.
During the investigation, users found that Svetleishiy and Buyanov could be connected to the exchange, they were looking for Alexey, who hid under support. But 31-year-old software engineer Alexey Demidov, who is known in the community by the name balthazar, got a lot to bear. His mining pool in 2011 was the official partner of BTC-e, and he himself served as a moderator in the chat room of the exchange (Wayback Machine and chat archive data).
However, BTC-e is not his brainchild, Demidov only cooperated with the site, the 'veteran' assured RBC, communicating with both balthazar and support. Demidov himself said that he appealed to the police in the autumn with a demand to open a criminal case under the Article Libel against those who call him the owner of BTC-e on the forums: after receiving a refusal, he complained to the Prosecutor's Office, which, he said, found signs of a crime. Now Demidov works for Russian Mining Coin Internet Ombudsman Dmitry Marinichev: in the autumn the company said that it raised $43.2 million for ICO.
The enthusiasm of the users was asleep, when in the middle of September the new Russian-language exchange Wex.nz started working: its management suddenly promised to pay off the debts of BTC-e. The operator of the site is the Singapore World Exchange Services, its only owner is 30-year-old Russian Dmitry Vasiliev (data from the Singapore business register).
A native of Minsk, educated at St. Petersburg Polytechnic University, Vasiliev initially earned money playing online poker. In early 2012 he left for China, where he supplied clothes and goods to the CIS countries. Then Vasiliev was carried away with crypto-currencies: he was engaged in transferring money through bitcoins to China and back, and in 2017 he created a structure with a great name International Institute for Blockchain Development and developed a BTC-up exchange project similar in design to BTC-e. Vasilev, according to him, had nothing to do with it - he was just its user.
However, in early August Vasiliev learned from an old friend in online poker Zubakha that Vinnik's wife was looking for lawyer Musatov. He admits that he assits lawyers of the arrested businessman. In October, the owner of Wex acted as a defense witness at a meeting of the Council of Judges in Thessaloniki, but not on behalf of the successor exchange, but as the president of the institute. Vasilev said at the trial that Vinnik was not the administrator of BTC-e, the Greek edition of Kathimerini reported.
This is not the whole story. The creators of the new exchange purchased digital assets from owners of the closed platform - information about users and their crypto-purses. The amount of the transaction Vasiliev does not disclose, he does not know the names of BTC-e ex-owners. Together with the assets, the BTC-e team could also move to the Wex: the top manager of a large payment system, communicating with the administrator of the successor exchange on the partnership, drew attention to the fact that he knows the long-standing details of his company's cooperation with BTC-e.
BTC-e clients had two types of assets: crypto-currencies and fiat balances - classic money. Together with the launch of Wex, customers received 62% of assets hanging on the BTC-e, Vasiliev says: it is about bitcoins, ethereum and other crypto currency (equivalent to $500 million). Judging by the forums, users really got the money. Crediting of crypto-currency means that BTC-e still had a backup server. The remaining 38% ($ 200-400 million) - the financial balances: they were transferred to tokens, Wex intends to buy them from customers at the expense of profits, Vasiliev promises.
A week before Vinnik's arrest, the Arbitrazh Court of St. Petersburg and the Leningrad Region recognized the future owner of Wex as a bankrupt because of a debt of 2.3 million rubles ($38.900), follows from the case file. Vasiliev, however, does not hide: the exchange has "investors, mostly large customers of the bursting BTC-e," whose names he does not disclose. He officially calls himself "the manager for working with partners" and says that he was "attracted as an expert for the transaction [on the database]."
Thanks to the purchase of the base, Wex immediately received a list of users and fame - it's much faster than starting from scratch to create a new player in a competitive market, Vasiliev explains the reason for the connection with the scandalous exchange. Now Wex, which exists only three months, is at the end of the second ten largest crypto-exchanges (Coinmarketcap's data) with a daily turnover of $ 80 million.
Vinnik is not the only person involved in a criminal case initiated in the United States. The listing of individuals and companies that could be involved in money laundering through BTC-e takes a whole page. But the published list is smeared. In November 2017, after speaking at the conference in Skolkovo with a report that was originally called "From BTC-e to Wex through FBI", Vasiliev shared his dream: he wants to make a completely legal exchange. But while history repeats itself, the true owners of Wex, like the final owners of BTC-e, are reliably hidden. Or continue to hide - this time behind the figure of Vasiliev.
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