Blocking BTC-E
FBI against BTC-e: how the largest Russian crypto exchange collapsed

The Greek Areopagus upheld the decision of the court in Thessaloniki to extradite to the United States the Russian Alexander Vinnik, who is considered the owner of the BTC-e crypto exchange. RBC magazine found its other possible beneficiaries and found out what Vinnik was doing
Athens, December 6, 2017. The meeting room of the Areopagus, the highest court of cassation in Greece. On the dais, looking at the audience from a ten-meter height, sit seven judges. They consider one case after another without pause. The doors to the hall are open: as in ancient times, anyone can freely enter the room and evaluate the fairness of the refereeing.

In the corner, two foreigners are waiting in handcuffs for their turn: the United States is seeking their extradition. Fate brought together a Chinese citizen who tried to buy American army antennas in Greece, and Russian Alexander Vinnik: the Northern District of California court calls him the owner of the BTC-e crypto exchange, through which “cybercriminals laundered money” .
In the United States, 38-year-old Vinnik, who has been in custody for about six months, faces 55 years in prison: in his speech at the court, he directly calls such a term life. A whole landing party arrived to rescue Vinnik in the Areopagus: Russian lawyer Timofey Musatov and three Greek lawyers, including the ex-deputy of the local parliament Alexandros Likourezos.

Next to Vinnik, an interpreter is trying, he can hardly keep up with the eloquent Greek lawyers. The accused himself gives the impression of an extremely closed person: he follows the process with restraint and without emotion. Just as dryly, he answers the questions of the Areopagus presiding. "Why don't you want to be extradited to the US?" “In the US, there is no independent justice in relation to the Russians.” “What was your relationship with the platform in question [BTC-e]?” “I am a technical expert, I have provided consulting services.”
Before the crash in the summer of 2017, BTC-e was one of the top 20 largest crypto exchanges in the world and was the most popular among Russian-speaking users. Over the six years of its existence, about 700 thousand people have used BTC-e services - they bought or sold more than 9.4 million bitcoins, follows from the data of the Northern District of California court. If in 2012 the monthly trading volume on the site was $1 million, by 2016 the scale had grown to $6 million per day (Bitcoincharts data). The trading platform took 0.2–0.5% commission from each transaction.
The fact that Vinnik had anything to do with BTC-e was unknown even to the veterans who had been trading on the site since its inception before his arrest. The BTC-e administration has always maintained anonymity, and among the probable owners, the names of a certain resident of the Crimea, a DJ in a Moscow karaoke club, or a builder from a village in the Zaporozhye region of Ukraine have surfaced. But this list has never been complete or true.

The RBC magazine tried to find out who could be at the origins of the exchange, who served its needs, and also what role Vinnik, who was arrested in Greece, played in the work of BTC-e.
"Sasha-WME"
In the 15th house there is the Moskvichka store, in the 17th house there is the Enchantress, between them there is a yellow arch under the advertisement “Three Lions. Furs, go into it. At the security, you must say that you are going to WMExpress, and please specify who you are going to - to Alexei or Alexander.
This instruction was published in the mid-2000s on the website of a Moscow firm dealing with transactions in the WebMoney system. The Alexander mentioned in the ad is Alexander Vinnik.
The future hero of the international crime chronicle was born in the Kurgan region. In the early 2000s, he moved to Moscow with his mother, his first wife Natalya Molokova told RBC magazine. Vinnik decided to try his luck in the Internet business. At first, he could work under the nickname kurganlab: in particular, it was on him that Vinnik's only possible social media account was registered - in My World. One of the first kurganlab projects was the Prazdnikovedenie.ru website, where toasts and congratulations were published.

Soon, the IT entrepreneur moved on to more profitable activities - servicing transactions between electronic payment services, which were still a curiosity at that time. In 2004, the Wm-Exchanger.com website appeared (it is not open now): the domain was registered to kurganlab@mail.ru, in the "Contacts" section, an ICQ number was indicated that Vinnik could use. The site published price tags for transactions, for example, the cost of transferring from a ruble wallet to a dollar one within WebMoney or from the E-Gold system to the same WebMoney. The young entrepreneur earned on commissions from each transfer.

Vinnik could advertise his services in specialized communities under the nickname WME, which can be deciphered as WebMoney Exchanger. Many Moscow IT specialists knew him precisely under this virtual name: “When he was arrested in Greece, they began to say to me:“ So this is Sasha-WME, ”recalls the owner of a large payment service. The same nickname was subsequently included in the indictment of the American court.
In 2006, Vinnik changed his free schedule to an office job at WMExpress. “I knew him [Vinnik] as our client and invited him [to work] with us,” Andrey Klimov, the permanent director and owner of WMExpress, told RBC magazine. Vinnik worked indoors on Novy Arbat for about three years, helping clients receive bundles of banknotes instead of electronic money.

Despite his full-time work, Vinnik did not quit his exchange business Wm-Exchanger: in addition to accounts in electronic payment services, he had bank accounts in offshore zones, which made his services in demand - there were five or six such people in all of Russia, Klimov recalls.

The clients of such intermediaries were Forex market participants, programmers and freelance designers - all whose activities at that time were already associated with payment by electronic money. Soon, exchange services fell in favor with hackers and carders (fraudsters who steal information from bank cards), says Vinnik's ex-colleague at WMExpress. According to him, the company sometimes received inquiries from law enforcement about some clients in this area.
Vinnik himself was neither a programmer nor even an expert in hacking computer systems, according to two WMExpress interlocutors. He always specialized in financial transactions, constantly "searched and looked for" new opportunities for earning, recalls his acquaintance. The 2010s gave Vinnik a truly revolutionary way - bitcoin.
In October 2011, a WME user left his first post on the largest specialized crypto forum Bitcointalk.org: “I have been dealing with exchanges for more than ten years, now I started working with bitcoins. I can trade them for anything. I give preference to cash in Moscow <...>, dollar-denominated cashless payments from offshore companies and other options. I prefer large amounts.

The BTC-e exchange, which later played a fatal role in Vinnik's life, had existed for several months by the time this post was written.
Crypto is criminal
"YOUR LOGO IS VERY SCARY AND
COMPLETELY UNTRUSTWORTHY!"

— one Bitcointalk.org user remarked in August 2011 in
response to an offer to test the new BTC-e trading platform.
One of the exchange administrators, who communicated with the community under the nickname btc-e.com, promised three bitcoins to the author of the best symbol. There were so few entries that the results of the competition were not even summed up. Perhaps no one was impressed by the amount of reward: then three coins could be exchanged for $30 at best.
The first online bitcoin exchange, Japan's Mt. Gox, began work in 2010 - a year after the first batch of digital currency was mined. The creators of BTC-e hit the mark with their project: for example, in the same summer of 2011, the American Kraken and the European Bitstamp appeared, both of which are now in the top 10 largest crypto trading platforms (Bitcoincharts data).

Unlike competitors, BTC-e, launched in 2011, was geared towards the Russian-speaking public. Immigrants from the post-Soviet space were immediately attracted by the lack of a language barrier, recalls a trader, the third user who registered on BTC-e, Evgeny (he asked not to indicate his last name). Moreover, the exchange was chosen due to the ability to transfer bitcoins into rubles, another oldest user of BTC-e, blockchain entrepreneur Mikhail Solomatin, suggested in a conversation with RBC magazine (registered fifth on the site).

It was possible to turn digital money into the national currency of Russia not only in a non-cash way: the exchange immediately and officially offered users the delivery of cash in Moscow. The minimum amount that the courier was ready to carry was from 15 thousand rubles. You had to pay for convenience - the commission for "cash" withdrawal was 7%. For comparison: through QIWI it was possible to receive rubles for 4%, and through a transfer to an account with Sberbank - 6%, follows from the posts of the BTC-e administrator on Bitcointalk.org.

Thanks to the “Russianness”, the exchange quickly gained popularity. When, after a year of work, it was translated into English, the daily turnover of bitcoin trading reached $60,000 at a price of $10 apiece. Users were drawn in more and more actively: in 2013, the figure rose to $600 thousand, in 2014 - up to $2 million (Bitcoincharts data). In August 2016, the total daily trading volume of various cryptocurrencies on BTC-e reached $10.4 million, and in June 2017 it exceeded $66 million (Coinmarketcap statistics).

The exchange consistently ranked among the twenty largest exchanges in the world in terms of total turnover. BTC-e withheld a commission of 0.2-0.5% from each operation. Thus, during the peak days of 2017, with a daily turnover of $66 million, the profit from transactions could be from $240,000 to $240,000.

The beneficiaries were safely hidden. Some users were satisfied with such anonymity for ideological reasons, the second registered user, the programmer Roman, is sure (he also asked not to give his last name): cryptoeconomics is considered to be free from total control - this is a whole “religion” created by unknown people under the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto.

However, law enforcement agencies are not up to ideology. The lack of a customer identification system, according to the court of the Northern District of California, attracted cybercriminals. BTC-e wallets received payments from users whose computers were infected with the CryptoWall virus, which blocked the operation of the operating system until bitcoin was paid to hackers (the virus spread in 2013–2014). The Fancy Bear hacker group purchased cryptocurrency on BTC-e to pay for servers from which attacks were subsequently carried out, for example, on the computers of the German parliament, the BBC reported .

Some users of BTC-e did not share the craving for anonymity - they periodically conducted their own investigations, trying to find out who was behind the platform. The surname of Vinnik in these studies did not surface even once, but there was another one - the Most Serene.
Crimean origins
At any time of the year, guests of Alushta can rent a room in a one-story private house: the room with modern furniture has been renovated, bedspreads with leopard print are thrown over the beds. You need to negotiate a lease with the owners of the house - their phone numbers are published on housing search sites. One of them is a 39-year-old resident of Crimea Dmitry Svetleishy. He allegedly became the founder of the BTC-e exchange, according to public information.

For about two and a half years, the main domain BTC-e.com (historical data of the Whois service) was registered for the Most Serene. A year before the appearance of the exchange, the Smallarena.com portal was registered on it, where you could play StarCraft II for money. The design and structure of the first page of the site was very similar to the appearance of BTC-e. Finally, at the end of 2011, on behalf of the Serene Highness, an announcement was placed on the Freelance.ru portal about the translation of BTC-e into English.

His Serene Highness, when a correspondent for RBC magazine called him, silently listened to the arguments about his involvement in the stock exchange, and then remarked: “I had nothing to do with it. My friend and companion will call you and explain everything.” He refused to answer further questions.

The "companion" turned out to be 40-year-old Konstantin Voronchikhin. He introduced himself to a correspondent of RBC magazine as "a man from the 1990s." In the first half of the 2000s, Voronchikhin was engaged in agricultural business (data from the Ukrainian YouControl system), and in 2005 the Simferopol prosecutor's office accused him of attempting to illegally seize the construction company Specialized Mechanized Column No. 575, during which the ex-director of the enterprise allegedly had his eye gouged out , wrote the Crimean media . After the initiation of a criminal case, Voronchikhin left Ukraine and now, according to him, is in one of the countries of Asia.

Smallarena is a project of one of Voronchikhin's team members, created jointly with programmers from Eastern Ukraine: the partners met just because of their passion for StarCraft II. To register a gaming site in 2010, passport data and a Webmoney wallet of the Serene Highness were used, recalls Voronchikhin.

The same Ukrainian programmers could later use the name and address of the Serene Highness when creating BTC-e, Voronchikhin believes and immediately clarifies: he and the “companion” found out about this after Vinnik’s arrest and angry messages from the exchange’s clients on social networks. Voronchikhin also claims that he does not know the names of the programmers who borrowed the data of the Serene Highest for the registration of the cryptoportal.

A person under the nickname ne0n could be behind the Smallarena project: such a conclusion can be drawn after analyzing the correspondence on the forum of the gaming site Peka2.tv. In the same way, ne0n, in the BTC-e chat in the first months they turned to one of the exchange administrators, although he already communicated with the audience under the nickname dev. Dev-ne0n was responsible for the technical part of the crypto platform, his support colleague was responsible for financial issues. At first, both founders were “pretty open,” recalls exchange user Solomatin. In particular, they told one of the interlocutors of RBC magazine that they had spent $20,000 to launch BTC-e.

In 2013, in an anonymous interview with Coindesk.com, administrators said that BTC-e was founded by programmers Alexei and Alexander, who previously worked at the Skolkovo technopark . Customers really addressed support as Alexey, two veterans of the exchange recall. It was not possible to establish his last name, as well as to reveal the identity of dev-ne0n.

RBC magazine found an example in the exchange chat archive when support responded to Alexei on December 31, 2011, at the same time he shared his readiness to sell 49% of the exchange that was gaining popularity. The deal could take place in 2012-2013, when BTC-e made a breakthrough both in terms of trading volumes and in terms of functionality: according to one of the interlocutors of RBC magazine, investors appeared at the site - in private online conversations, both dev and support complained that some of the issues they "no longer solve."

Around that time, in 2013, exchange specialist Vinnik and the forex company FXOpen began to work closely with BTC-e.
Wealthy offshore
Moscow, September 2013. Vinnik meets with an employee of the UK-registered company Mayzus Financial Services (MFS), owned by Russian Sergey Mayzus. Before starting the conversation, the MFS representative asks Vinnik to show his passport to make sure that he is really who he claims to be. “The purpose of the meeting was to get acquainted and discuss the services required for the BTC-e company,” stated in the explanatory note of the MFS director, which Maizus handed over to the Greek Areopagus on December 6, 2017.

MFS owns OkPay and MoneyPolo payment systems. Through them, BTC-e users could replenish their accounts on the site, along with Yandex.Money and other services. However, MFS had one exclusive service: BTC-e users could make a transfer directly from a bank account, bypassing the conversion to electronic money. Bitcoin lovers did not know who the ultimate recipient of funds from BTC-e was, thanks to the presence of the first intermediary in the form of MFS.

In 2013, after a meeting with Vinnik, MFS opened accounts for several companies, in particular the English Always Efficient and the Seychellois Canton Business - these companies "provided services under the BTC-e brand," follows from the explanatory note. Canton Business, according to the indictment of the court of the Northern District of California, is the “offshore management company” of the exchange. And Always Efficient has been listed on the BTC-e website as the official site operator since mid-2015 (data from the WayBack Machine).

In addition to accounts opened with law firms, Maizus's company also opened accounts for two private individuals at the same time, according to a note submitted to an Athens court. Both were registered "as management bodies", that is, heads of companies. Always Efficient was represented by Alexander Buyanov, 30, and Stanislav Golovanov, 37, by Canton Business.

For a conversation with Buyanov, a correspondent for RBC magazine went to Moscow's Shishas karaoke bar on Novy Arbat, where he works as a DJ: to talk about cryptocurrencies, he had to go outside, making his way through the dancers. The owner of a fashionable beard and famously curled mustache, Buyanov is the least like the owner of a stock exchange with a turnover of millions of dollars. The DJ himself insists that until the scandalous news, he did not know about the existence of BTC-e, Always Efficient and that he was its leader.

RBC magazine failed to communicate with the formal head of Canton Business Golovanov. Unlike the metropolitan DJ, who only six months ago, according to him, found out about Vinnik, Golovanov could be familiar with him: according to RBC magazine, it was in the apartment of the future manager of Canton Business in the north of Moscow that Vinnik and his mother could be registered at the beginning 2000s, when they moved from Kurgan.

Representatives of MFS never communicated with either Buyanov or Golovanov: as follows from the explanatory note, all cases related to the cooperation between the Maizus company and BTC-e were resolved with Vinnik remotely.

The IT entrepreneur himself has repeatedly stated in court that he only advised the exchange as a “technical expert”. All communication went through the Internet, he does not know the names of his interlocutors from the trading floor, Vinnik told the correspondent of RBC magazine, while he was waiting for the meeting of the Areopagus. When asked if he gave recommendations only on the issues of conducting exchange operations and withdrawing and depositing funds, the Russian replied: “And not only.” He does not remember the specific date of the start of cooperation with the exchange: “Perhaps even before 2013.”

The cash flow from BTC-e users was filtered not only thanks to MFS. Offshore firms, probably associated with Vinnik and who opened accounts with Maizus in 2013, sent funds to the next instance.
Exchange relatives
In May 2017, the administration of BTC-e took the first step towards the abolition of the basic principle - the ability to buy and sell cryptocurrencies anonymously, indicating only e-mail during registration. Users were offered to undergo voluntary verification in exchange for a number of benefits for replenishing personal accounts: for virtualization, they had to provide a scan of their passport and, for example, copies of utility bills. It was necessary to go through the procedure not on BTC-e, but on another trading platform with a similar name - xBTCe.com, which may be associated with FXOpen.

FXOpen was founded in the mid-2000s. The holding, which unites a network of legal entities from Russia, Latvia, Great Britain, New Zealand and other countries, provides trading services on the foreign exchange market (forex). The Russian division of the group is headed by Elena Isaeva, Deputy Expert Advisory Council under the Committee on the Budget of the Federation Council. In various broker-based online rankings, FXOpen is in the top 20 global companies.
Cooperation between FXOpen and BTC-e began in 2013, when the exchange's clients got the opportunity to trade the BTC/USD currency pair through the MetaTrader platform, and since 2014, users have the opportunity to give cryptocurrency to the trader (the so-called PAMM accounts). All software for “pumping” BTC-e was provided by FXOpen. No exchange offered such a service at that time, so users perceived it as a breakthrough, recalls Roman, a cryptocurrency veteran.

In the second half of 2013, two new administrators registered on BTC-e - support5 and support1: they used the Latvian IP addresses of the Soft-FX company, which is part of the FXOpen holding (data from the exchange's user base). Support1 subsequently acted as a moderator and even banned the participants of the trading platform, follows from the chat archive. “This exchange [BTC-e] is the cousin of FXOpen. Everything is talking about this, ”one of her clients, Alexander, wrote in the chat of the trading platform at the beginning of 2014.
Kinship could be not only technical, but also financial. In Athens, Maizus submitted to the Areopagus a report prepared by MFS after the BTC-e scandal before the National Anti-Crime Agency of Great Britain, which analyzed the transactions of Vinnik's structures for 2014-2017. The money of the exchange went in transit to firms related to FXOpen, it follows from the document: in 2017 alone, the New Zealand company XP Solutions Ltd, associated with the forex holding, received about €26 million and $900 thousand through MFS.

The beneficiary of FXOpen is Alexander Klimenko, a 36-year-old native of Belarus. He owns one of the parent structures of the holding, the British FXOpen Ltd, and the company's trademarks (data from the UK Trade Register and Justia Trademarks service).

FXOpen “did not own a stake in the BTC-e exchange and did not even cooperate with it, but simply provided technical solutions,” Klimenko said in a conversation with a correspondent for RBC magazine. For all services, including verification through xBTCe.com, the exchange paid the holding, he added, declining to name specific amounts. When asked if he knew Vinnik personally, Klymenko replied: “Of course, they came to our office.” Who exactly represented BTC-e, except for Vinnik, the entrepreneur could not remember.

Klimenko's acquaintances claim that he constantly lives in Riga. Vinnik, according to RBC magazine, only from February 2016 to May 2017 traveled to the capital of Latvia at least six times, but Klimenko says that he did not meet him during this period. Vinnik himself, when asked to tell about his acquaintance with the owner of FXOpen, said: “I can’t answer this question now.”

Vinnik's last one-day trip to Riga took place in May 2017. Two months later, he again went to Europe - this time, together with his family, he flew to rest in Greece. And since then he has not been able to leave this country.
Extradition war
On the hot morning of July 25, 2017, more than a dozen men in shorts, T-shirts and sunglasses came to one of the beaches in Halkidiki. They could be mistaken for tourists, but they did not go down to the sea for the sake of swimming: they were interested in a man who was resting on a sunbed next to his two young sons, Vinnik's current wife Alexandra Shevchenko said in an interview with RT . This is how the whole world learned about Vinnik, who was arrested by Greek law enforcement at the request of the US Department of Justice.

In parallel, the FBI arrested the servers of the exchange, which since 2011 have been located in the US state of New Jersey. The BTC-e website stopped loading: the domain was seized - now there is a stub with emblems of various American law enforcement agencies.

Vinnik's indictment was approved by the Northern District of California in January 2017. The arrest could only be made after the businessman went online from a mobile phone number known to the Americans, the RIA Novosti agency wrote . In the United States, Vinnik is considered the owner of BTC-e, which was used by cybercriminals to launder money. The specific amount in the charge is not specified: it is only written that the value of bitcoins that passed through the exchange exceeds $ 9 billion . At the same time, in the release of the US Department of Justice, published after the arrest of the Russian, a different estimate was given - $ 4 billion .

In particular, American law enforcers believe that Vinnik was involved in the withdrawal of 530 thousand bitcoins stolen from 2011 to 2014 from the wallets of the Japanese Mt. Gox: 300 thousand went to three BTC-e accounts, including WME and Vamnedam, which are associated with Vinnik, according to the materials of the American court.

The Greeks are considering the extradition of Vinnik slowly. From the beach in Halkidiki, he was transported to a prison in Thessaloniki: in early October, the city's council of judges supported the request of the Americans. But the Russian filed a complaint with a higher authority, the Areopagus, and he was transferred to an Athenian prison. The final decision on Vinnik's extradition will be made by the Minister of Justice of Greece. He will have to choose: Russia also sent a request for extradition in parallel.

On August 11, 2017, the Ostankinsky District Court ruled in absentia to arrest Vinnik on charges of large-scale fraud (up to 1 million rubles). The basis was a criminal case: Vinnik allegedly did not supply some equipment to a commercial company, after which its director turned to the police, follows from the impersonal arrest warrant. We are talking about the Vosstroykomlit company, a representative of the Ostankino court told RBC magazine. There is only one company in Russia with this name (SPARK-Interfax data): this Samara company supplies pipeline fittings, and its director Leonid Mashkov, who allegedly wrote a statement to the police, first heard about Vinnik and the criminal case from the author of this article. The Main Directorate of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Russia for Moscow did not answer questions from RBC.

According to a similar scenario, five years ago, an employee of Ashmanov and Partners, Dmitry Zubakha, was rescued, who was arrested while on vacation in Cyprus at the request of the US authorities. In the US, he was suspected of hacking attacks on Amazon and eBay. Before the end of the formal extradition procedures, a criminal case was opened against Zubakha in Russia, accusing her of stealing money from Russian companies via the Internet. A long consideration of requests for extradition from different countries ended in victory for Russia: in the spring of 2013, Zubakha was taken to Moscow, where he was sentenced to a suspended sentence.

The similarity of the cases does not end there: like Zubakha, Vinnik is defended by lawyer Timofey Musatov. In the late 2000s, he represented the interests of Natalya Kasperskaya in the conflict between the shareholders of Kaspersky Lab, and now he owns a 10% stake in her company Infowatch Asset Management (SPARK-Interfax data). Kaspersky's husband Igor Ashmanov attracted a successful lawyer to rescue his employee Zubakha from a Cypriot prison, Ashmanov himself wrote in a column on Roem.ru.

Musatov said that he took up Vinnik's case after the appeal of his wife, who contacted him through Zubakha. The latter confirmed that he had become an intermediary: Shevchenko read about his Cypriot story and, five or six days after the events on the beach, asked for Musatov's contacts. Vinnik's wife pays for legal services, Ashmanov does not participate financially, the lawyer specified.

But it was not without the help of Ashmanov. He did not know Vinnik and did not understand whether he was a criminal or not, but the businessman does not like that the United States "considers the whole world as its jurisdiction." “I helped them with connections, brought them together with different people, including state ones,” Ashmanov said.
Exchange from bankruptcy
At the end of August, a photo was published on the Twitter account of the BTC-e exchange: three people are standing with their backs, wearing T-shirts with the inscription I believe in BTC-e. In the background is a press wall with the name of the conference "Blockchain - Russia's new oil", which was held in Innopolis. The snapshot blew up specialized forums: angry clients of the closed exchange began an investigation, trying to figure out which of the owners of BTC-e said “hello” to them in this way.

After the crash, the administration of the exchange reduced communication with users to their account on Bitcointalk.org. Vinnik was “neither a leader nor an employee of the service,” and access to databases and wallets was obtained, the administration reported in the summer. Information about access to the database gave customers hope that BTC-e had backup servers, but in August they did not see their money.

During the investigation, users discovered that Svetleishy and Buyanov could be connected with the exchange, they were looking for Alexei, who was hiding under the nickname support. But most of all went to 31-year-old software engineer Alexei Demidov, who is known in the community under the nickname balthazar. His mining pool was an official BTC-e partner in 2011, and he himself acted as a moderator in the exchange chat (data from the Wayback Machine and chat archive).

However, BTC-e is not his brainchild, Demidov only collaborated with the site, the veteran of the exchange, who communicated with both balthazar and support, assured RBC magazine. Demidov himself said that in the fall he turned to the police with a demand to open a criminal case under the article “slander” against those who on the forums call him the owner of BTC-e: having received a refusal, he complained to the prosecutor’s office, which, according to him, found signs of a crime. Now Demidov works at Russian Mining Coin, Internet Ombudsman Dmitry Marinichev: in the fall, the company announced that it had raised $43.2 million for the ICO.

The enthusiasm of users subsided when the new Russian-language exchange Wex.nz started operating in mid-September: its management suddenly promised to pay off BTC-e debts. Singaporean World Exchange Services is listed as the site operator, its sole owner is 30-year-old Russian Dmitry Vasiliev (Singapore business registry data).

A native of Minsk, educated at the St. Petersburg Polytechnic University, Vasilyev initially made money playing online poker. At the beginning of 2012, he left for China, from where he supplied clothes and goods to the CIS countries. Then Vasiliev became interested in cryptocurrencies: he was engaged in transferring money through bitcoins to China and back, and in 2017 he created a structure with the loud name “International Blockchain Development Institute” and developed the BTC-up exchange project, similar in design to BTC-e. Vasiliev, according to him, had nothing to do with her - except that he was her user.

However, in early August, Vasiliev learned from an old online poker friend Zubakha that Vinnik's wife was looking for Musatov's lawyer, and also asked for an acquaintance. He admits that he has been helping the lawyers of the arrested businessman ever since. In October, the owner of Wex appeared as a defense witness at a meeting of the council of judges in Thessaloniki, not on behalf of the successor exchange, but as president of the institute. At the trial, Vasilyev said that Vinnik, according to him, was not the administrator of BTC-e, the Greek edition of Kathimerini reported .

The connection between Wex and BTC-e is not limited to participation in the Vinnik trial. The creators of the new exchange purchased "digital assets" from the owners of the closed platform - information about users and their crypto wallets. Vasiliev does not disclose the amount of the transaction, he allegedly does not know the names of the ex-owners of BTC-e. Together with the assets, the BTC-e team could also switch to Wex: a top manager of a large payment system, who communicated with the administrator of the successor exchange about the partnership, noticed that he knew the long-standing details of his company’s cooperation with BTC-e.
Chronology of the development and collapse of BTC-e
June 2011
Launch of the exchange in test mode. The creators are users under the nicknames support (someone Aleksey) and dev (presumably the developer of the portal for playing StarCraft II). The site is registered to Dmitry Svetleishy, ​​a Crimean.
July 2012
The monthly turnover of the BTC-e exchange reaches $1 million. An English-language section appears, the exchange is experiencing the first hacker attack: a daily trading volume of 4.5 thousand bitcoins was withdrawn from it.
August 2013
Forex-holding FXOpen becomes the official partner of BTC-e. Until the crash, the multimillion-dollar cash flows of the exchange could go to the accounts of structures associated with this company.
Fall 2013
Alexander Vinnik, now under arrest in Greece, opens offshore accounts in the payment systems of Mayzus Financial Systems to service BTC-e.
Mid 2015
The British company Always Efficient LLP becomes the operator of the BTC-e exchange. Andrey Shvets, a builder from the Zaporozhye region, and Alexander Buyanov, a Moscow DJ, are listed as its owners. Both, presumably, were only nominal owners.
May 2017
BTC-e users are invited to undergo voluntary verification - for this they need to provide a scan of their passport and other documents. You need to pass it on the xBTCe exchange, which can be associated with FXOpen structures.
July 2017
Vinnik is arrested by the Greek police on the beach at the request of the US Department of Justice: he is accused of creating an illegal exchange. Exchange servers arrested by the FBI. On the eve of the collapse, its turnover reached $66 million a day.
December 2017
As of the beginning of the month, Vinnik was in an Athens prison, the trial for his extradition to the United States has not yet been completed. Vinnik faces 55 years in prison.
On BTC-e, clients had two types of assets: cryptocurrencies and fiat balances - classic money. Together with the launch of Wex, clients received 62% of assets hung on BTC-e, says Vasilyev: we are talking about bitcoins, “ether” and other cryptocurrencies (the equivalent of $500 million). Judging by the forums, users really received funds. The crediting of cryptocurrencies suggests that BTC-e still had a backup server. The remaining 38% ($200-400 million) are fiat balances: they were transferred to tokens, Wex intends to buy them from customers at the expense of profits, Vasilyev promises.

A week before Vinnik's arrest, the Arbitration Court of St. Petersburg and the Leningrad Region declared the future owner of Wex a personal bankrupt due to a debt of 2.3 million rubles, follows from the case file. Vasiliev, however, does not hide: the exchange has “investors, mainly large clients of the burst BTC-e”, whose names he does not name. He officially refers to himself as a "manager of partnerships" and says that he was "engaged as an expert for the transaction [on the database]."

Thanks to the purchase of the base, Wex immediately received a list of users and fame - this is much faster than creating a new player in a competitive market from scratch, Vasilyev explains the reason for the connection with the scandalous exchange. Now Wex, which has existed for only three months, with a daily turnover of $ 80 million, is at the end of the second ten largest crypto exchanges (Coinmarketcap data).

Vinnik is not the only defendant in a criminal case initiated in the United States. The list of individuals and companies that could be involved in money laundering through BTC-e takes up a whole page. But in the published version the list is smeared. In November 2017, after speaking at a conference in Skolkovo with a report that was originally called “From BTC-e to Wex through FBI,” Vasiliev shared a dream: he wants to make a completely legal exchange. But for now, history is repeating itself: the true owners of Wex, like the ultimate owners of BTC-e, are safely hidden. Or they continue to hide - this time behind the figure of the active Vasiliev.