Bad news if you’re a cryptocurrency investor who relies upon the Bitzlato exchange, because here’s what you will see if you visit its website today.
The reason? The company’s founder, Anatoly Legkodymov, has been charged by the US Department of Justice with processing more than US $700m worth of “dirty money” on behalf of criminals.
Legkodymov, a Russian national living in China, was arrested in Miami as part of an international operation with law enforcement in France and other countries.
“Institutions that trade in cryptocurrency are not above the law and their owners are not beyond our reach,” said US Attorney Breon Peace at a press conference announcing Legkodymov’s arrest. “As alleged, Bitzlato sold itself to criminals as a no-questions-asked cryptocurrency exchange, and reaped hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of deposits as a result. The defendant is now paying the price for the malign role that his company played in the cryptocurrency ecosystem.”
Prosecutors claim that Bitzlato did not implement required anti-money laundering safeguards and required only minimal identification information from its users, making it ideal for drug deals and ransomware operators who wished to cover their tracks.
Authorities say that Bitzlato was closely connected to Hydra, a dark web criminal marketplace widely used by Russian-speaking criminals, that was seized and shut down last year.
My guess is that Legkodymov is rueing his decision to visit Miami.