Russian Operator of BTC-e Crypto Exchange Pleads Guilty to Money Laundering

Russian Operator of BTC-e Crypto Exchange Pleads Guilty to Money Laundering

A Russian operator of a now-dismantled BTC-e cryptocurrency exchange has pleaded guilty to money laundering charges from 2011 to 2017.

Alexander Vinnik, 44, was charged in January 2017 and taken into custody in Greece in July 2017. He was subsequently extradited to the U.S. in August 2022. Vinnik and his co-conspirators have been accused of owning and managing BTC-e, which allowed its criminal customers to trade in Bitcoin with high levels of anonymity.

In addition, the entity was not registered as a money services business with the U.S. Department of Treasury despite doing substantial business in the U.S. and did not enforce any anti-money laundering (AML) or Know Your Customer (KYC) guidelines as required by federal law, making it an attractive choice for criminals looking to obscure their ill-gotten funds.

Vinnik was previously charged with one count of operation of an unlicensed money service business, one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering, 17 counts of money laundering, and two counts of engaging in unlawful monetary transactions.

Earlier this February, the U.S. government charged another BTC-e operator, a Belarusian and Cypriot national named Aliaksandr Klimenka for money laundering and operating an unlicensed money services business.

Shortly following Vinnik’s arrest in 2017, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) announced [PDF] it assessed a $110 million civil money penalty against BTC-e for violating AML laws and an additional $12 million penalty against Vinnik.