New Zealand freezes assets linked to Russian Alexander Vinnik

New Zealand freezes assets linked to Russian Alexander Vinnik

Wellington, New Zealand | AFP | Monday 06/22/2020 – On Monday, New Zealand police announced the freezing of assets worth 140 million New Zealand dollars (80 million euros) linked to Russian Alexander Vinnik, who is detained in France on suspicion of fraud and money laundering on the Bitcoin exchange platform.

She said she acted after learning that the funds belonging to Mr Vinick were owned by a New Zealand company.

“This money is likely to come from profits made at the expense of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of people around the world, through cybercrime and organized crime,” New Zealand Police Chief Andrew Coster said.

In recent years, Mr. Vinik has been involved in several financial embezzlement operations, in particular via the Bitcoin exchange BTC-e, founded in 2011, which has become one of the largest platforms in the world.

According to US justice, she played a role in online extortion and other cybercrime activities.

Mr Vinik, who was arrested in Greece in July 2017, was extradited to France in January, while US and Russian courts were also searching for him.

The forty-year-old was indicted in January in France on charges of “organised mass extortion”, “aggravated money laundering”, “criminal conspiracy” and “attack on an automated data processing system of an organized gang”.

Alexander Vinik, who has always protested his innocence, was charged by the US Department of Justice in 2017 with money laundering.

The US Treasury Department's financial police service, FinCen, has civilly ordered BTC-e to pay a $110 million fine. He himself was fined $12 million.

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New Zealand police worked closely on this case with the Internal Revenue Service and US tax authorities, Koster said.

He added: “Criminals around the world need to understand that the New Zealand financial system and companies based here are not the place to hide illicit income.”

Koster said that the police asked the court to order the confiscation of the frozen funds.

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