Europol: €1 billion of criminally derived assets passed through Bitzlato
EU police said law enforcement authorities in several countries seized €18 million in cryptocurrency from the platform and froze another €50 million in assets on other exchanges
Cryptocurrency exchange Bitzlato has converted about €1 billion in crypto assets linked to crime, Europol said.
The platform is suspected of facilitating the laundering of large amounts of criminal proceeds and converting them into rubles, the report said.
On January 18, the U.S. Department of Justice announced the suspension of activities of Bitzlato, a cryptocurrency exchange registered in Hong Kong, and the arrest of its founder, Russian citizen Anatoly Legkodimov. According to the agency, Bitzlato operated in the U.S. without the necessary license and processed illegal transactions worth more than $700 million.
According to the EU police estimates, assets worth 2.1 billion euros went through the Bitzlato crypto-exchange in aggregate. Law enforcement analysis showed that about 46% of them (amounting to about 1 billion euros), were related to criminal activity.
Most of the suspicious transactions involved entities that were sanctioned by the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC). Investigations revealed that 1.5 million bitcoin transactions were made directly between Bitzlato users and Hydra, a darknet drug market that closed in 2022.
During the joint work, which involved law enforcement agencies of Cyprus, Belgium, France, the United States, Spain, the Netherlands and Portugal, in addition to Legkodymov, four more people were arrested - one in Cyprus and three in Spain. The work of the servers of the exchange in France was stopped. Europol said in a statement that searches were conducted in 8 homes, seized 18 million euros in cryptocurrency, vehicles and electronics. 50 million euros in crypto assets were frozen in more than 100 accounts on other exchanges.
The U.S. authorities intend to completely shut down Bitzlato. In particular, according to former U.S. Treasury Department official Kari Steinbauer, the crypto-exchange was ruled that U.S. and foreign banks will no longer be able to cooperate with the site.
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