Cryptocurrency expert kidnapped for $1 million bitcoin ransom

Cryptocurrency expert kidnapped for $1 million bitcoin ransom

On Tuesday, cryptocurrency expert Pavel Lerner was snatched by an armed gang wearing ski masks near his office in Ukraine. It was a kidnap-for-ransom scheme, but with a high-tech twist: instead of asking for easily traceable paper money, the kidnappers demanded to be paid $1 million worth of bitcoins. Turns out NY County District Attorney Cyrus Vance was right when he said we can expect cryptocurrency-related crimes (outside of cyber attacks) to be more common as its value surges. Vance made the statement after armed robbers held up a victim at gunpoint earlier this month to steal $1.8 million worth of virtual coins in New York.

For the robbers, Lerner was a great target: he’s a known bitcoin authority in Ukraine and is an executive at cryptocurrency exchange Exmo. He was thankfully released (shocked but alive) a couple of days later, but it’s unclear who made the transfer for him and whether he did it himself. His company has assured users, though, that their coins are “absolutely safe” and that the kidnappers wouldn’t have gotten access to their wallets and personal data since Lerner himself has no access to them.

We’re going to assume the criminals have already sold or moved their stash whatever the source was, since they’d have to deal with the virtual currency’s fluctuating prices otherwise. Ukraine’s National Police already launched a criminal case to investigate Lerner’s abduction — it’s the first bitcoin-related one in the country, but it’ll probably be just one of the many we’ll hear about going forward.

Kidnappers release cryptocurrency boss after receiving £750,000 ransom in bitcoin

Kidnappers in Ukraine have released an employee at a United Kingdom-registered cryptocurrency exchange after getting more than $1 million (£740,000) in bitcoins as ransom, an adviser to the Ukrainian interior minister told Reuters on Friday.

Pavel Lerner, a leading analyst and blockchain expert, was abducted by unknown masked people on 26 December, according to a statement by his company, EXMO Finance, on its website.

“This is the first such case in Ukraine linked to bitcoins,” Anton Gerashchenko, an adviser to Interior Minister Arsen Avakov, said in a phone text message.

It was unclear who paid the ransom. Lerner’s work at EXMO did not involve access to the financial assets of its users, the company said, adding that the platform was operating normally.

“At the moment, he is safe, and there was no physical harm inflicted on him,” the statement said. “Nevertheless, Pavel is currently in a state of major stress, therefore, he will not provide any official comments in the coming days.”

News of the release came as bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies rebounded after two days of losses partly related to regulators toughening rules on digital currencies in an effort to curb excessive speculation. Many digital currencies surged in value this year.

Strana.ua, a local news website, had earlier reported that six gun-toting men in dark clothing and balaclavas had snatched Lerner and pushed him into a minibus with stolen number plates.

Kiev police have begun a criminal investigation after a man was kidnapped in the Obolon district of Kiev, Oksana Blyshchyk, the Kiev police spokeswoman said by phone without revealing the name of the victim.

EXMO has 900,000 users as of December 2017, according to its website.

“We would like to note that the story of Pavel’s abduction has overgrown with rumours that might tamper with the official investigation,” EXMO said in its statement. “That said, EXMO currently refrains from any comments or suggestions of own versions of the possible scenario, in the nearest future.”

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