US Charges Belarusian-Cypriot National for Operating Unlicensed Crypto Exchange

A Belarusian national is facing charges of money
laundering conspiracy and running an unlicensed money services business,
allegedly at the helm of the notorious digital currency exchange BTC-e.

According to a report by the Office of Public
Affairs at the US Department of Justice, the indictment spans from 2011 to July
2017, revealing a web of criminal activities involving cybercrime, online money
laundering, and a range of illicit transactions.

The Alleged Criminal Empire

The indictment suggests that Aliaksandr Klimenka, Alexander Vinnik, and others controlled BTC-e. This platform is characterized
as a significant hub for cybercrime and online money laundering. The exchange
purportedly allowed users to anonymously trade Bitcoin,
fostering a customer base heavily reliant on criminal activities.

Transactions facilitated by BTC-e allegedly spanned
a spectrum of crimes, from computer hacking to identity theft, ransomware
scams, and drug trafficking. Despite conducting substantial business in the
US, BTC-e allegedly operated without proper registration as a money
services business and lacked essential anti-money laundering processes.

The absence
of a Know Your Customer verification system and an anti-money
laundering program, as mandated by federal law, is highlighted. The 42-year-old Belarusian was arrested on December 21, 2023, in Latvia at the request of
the US. If convicted, Klimenka could face a maximum
penalty of 25 years in prison, signaling a strong stance against those involved
in illicit financial activities.

International Efforts Against Crypto Crimes

The case involves collaboration among various
investigative agencies, including the US Secret Service, Federal Bureau of Investigation, IRS Criminal
Investigation, and Homeland Security Investigations.

Members of the National
Cryptocurrency Enforcement Team (NCET), which plays a crucial role in prosecuting
individuals and entities enabling the illicit use of cryptocurrencies, are also involved in this matter.

Highlighting the global nature of financial crimes,
the Justice Department‘s Office of International Affairs worked with the
Latvian government to secure Klimenka's arrest, underscoring the importance of
international cooperation in combating cryptocurrency-related offenses.

The establishment of the NCET reflects the ongoing
efforts to combat the illicit use of cryptocurrencies and digital assets, the US authorities noted. The
team investigates and prosecutes crimes involving virtual currency exchanges,
mixing and tumbling services, and infrastructure providers.

This article was written by Jared Kirui at

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