• US, France and the Treasury Department have shut down the Bitzlato cryptocurrency exchange and arrested its Russian co-founder, Anatoly Legkodymov, in Miami.
• The DOJ accused Bitzlato of laundering criminal proceeds from darknet markets and ransomware attacks.
• Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco claimed that this operation was a “significant blow to the crypto crime ecosystem”.
US and French law enforcement have shut down the cryptocurrency exchange Bitzlato, arresting its Russian co-founder, Anatoly Legkodymov, in Miami. This is part of an “international cryptocurrency enforcement action”, according to the US Department of Justice (DOJ).
The DOJ alleged that Legkodymov operated the exchange as a “high-tech financial hub that, in his own words, catered to ‘known crooks’”. Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco highlighted that Bitzlato was a “crucial financial resource” for Hydra, the largest darknet market with Russian roots, which was shut down in April last year by the German police with the support of US agencies.
Monaco claimed that the DOJ is dealing a “significant blow to the crypto crime ecosystem”. The US Treasury Department also played a role in this operation, as well as the French law enforcement.
The Bitzlato platform had previously claimed that it was hacked. However, the DOJ’s allegations suggested that the exchange was handling illicit funds worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
The DOJ also highlighted the importance of international law enforcement cooperation in tackling crypto crime. Monaco noted that the DOJ is “committed to identifying, apprehending, and prosecuting criminals who use cryptocurrency to facilitate their criminal activities”.
This is not the first time that the DOJ has gone after crypto criminals. In the past, the DOJ has busted several crypto-related money laundering operations, including a 2019 case involving the now-defunct BTC-e exchange.
In conclusion, the US and French law enforcement’s enforcement action against Bitzlato and its Russian co-founder is yet another example of the increasing focus the authorities are placing on crypto-related crime. The DOJ is sending a clear message that it is committed to cracking down on crypto crime and will continue to pursue those who facilitate it.