22 Jun 2020

Police freeze $140m thought linked to cyber crime, money laundering

5:59 pm on 22 June 2020

Canton Business Corporation and owner Alexander Vinnik, who operated the BTC-e cryptocurrency, have had $140m frozen by New Zealand police.

Police generic

Photo: RNZ / Richard Tindiller

Police said it was the largest restraint of funds in their history.

They said criminals and cyber criminals laundered proceeds derived from a range of criminal activities including computer hacking, ransomware attacks, theft, fraud, corruption and drug crime through US-operated BTC-e.

It is alleged BTC-e had no anti-money laundering controls and policies.

"These funds are likely to reflect the profit gained from the victimisation of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of people globally as a result of cyber-crime and organised crime," Police Commissioner Andrew Coster said.

"However, this restraint demonstrates that New Zealand is not, and will not be, a safe haven for the illicit proceeds generated from crime in other parts of the world.

"The global criminal community need to understand New Zealand's financial system, and companies established here, are not the places to try to hide illicit income."

An investigation is ongoing, pending an application to the High Court seeking forfeiture of these funds.

Vinnik was arrested on money laundering allegations in Greece in 2017 and has since been extradited to France where he remains in custody.