The European Union’s police agency Europol reported on Monday (23) that it had arrested five senior executives of cryptocurrency exchange Bitzlato – which was shut down by the US last week. According to a note from Europol, those arrested include the company’s CEO, chief financial officer and marketing director in Spain. The arrests followed eight searches in Spain, Cyprus, Portugal and the United States.
According to Europol, during the searches, the agents seized about 18 million euros (101 million Brazilian reals) in cryptocurrency. In addition, the authorities decided to freeze more than 100 cryptocurrency accounts with assets worth R$281 million.
Understand Bitzlato’s condition
As reported by the police agency, the Hong Kong-registered exchange with global operations “is suspected of facilitating the laundering of large amounts of criminal proceeds and their conversion into rubles.”
“Bitzlato enabled the rapid conversion of various crypto assets such as Bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin, Bitcoin Cash, Dash, Dogecoin and USDT into Russian Rubles. It is estimated that the exchange has received total assets of €2.1 billion (119,000 BTC).
The agency held that while converting crypto assets into coins is illegal, investigations into the company’s crypto operations indicated that large amounts of criminal assets were passing through the platform.
An analysis indicated that around 46% of the assets traded via Bitzlato had links to criminal activity. This is equivalent to about 1 billion euros (5.6 billion Brazilian reals),
For example, investigations showed that 1.5 million BTC transactions took place directly between Bitzlato users and [mercado da dark web] Hydramarket, idle in April 2022 ”, Europol record.
The United States arrests the founder of Pizzalato
On January 18, as reported by Cryptovasil, the United States arrested Bitzlato founder, Russian Anatoly Legkodimov. Now, he must be taken to court on charges of running an unlicensed business that allegedly facilitated money laundering and other crimes.
Moreover, authorities said that cryptocurrency exchange Binance was one of the three largest recipients of Bitzlato’s illicit funds. However, Binance denies any connection to the exchange, as stated by a company spokesperson. The exchange confirmed that it continues to cooperate with the authorities to ensure enforcement of the law.