Saturday, 4 March 2023
by Berkeley Lovelace
Russia-linked cryptocurrency exchange Bitzlato has begun processing withdrawals of digital assets belonging to its customers. The trading platform was shut down in an operation carried out by law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and Europe alleging that it had been used to launder dirty money.
Users who have deposited funds to Bitzlato can now start to withdraw their coins, the recently seized crypto exchange said in a Telegram message. The announcement comes after a period of over a month during which the trading platform was unavailable.
The Hong Kong-registered exchange, better known to Russian-speaking traders, was taken down in a coordinated law enforcement operation in January when French authorities took control of its website and their American colleagues arrested its co-founder Anatoly Legkodymov.
The U.S. Justice Department believes Bitzlato has processed over $700 million in funds from criminal entities such as the darknet market Hydra and the Russian crypto pyramid scheme Finiko. According to Europol, it exchanged over $1 billion of illicit money.
“We were gone for 42 long days, but we are back. A lot of work has been done to ensure that your data is safe and the coins are in your wallets,” Bitzlato said in the post. It also insisted it had been used as “a bargaining chip in backstage games.”
In late January, four more members of its team, including three executives, were arrested in European countries. The other Bitzlato co-founder, Anton Shkurenko, was briefly detained, questioned, and released by Russian police in February.
Prior to that, Shkurenko announced in an interview on Youtube that Bitzlato intends to relocate to Russia and restore operations and withdrawals from there. He also said that French investigators had seized Bitzlato’s hot wallet with over a third of its assets and remarked that the withdrawals were going to be partial in the beginning.
Do you think Russian authorities will allow Bitzlato to operate from the country? Share your thoughts on the subject in the comments section below.