Sleeping Crypto Wallet “Wakes Up” and Transfers $165 Million in Bitcoin to Strangers

A crypto wallet attributed to the BTC-e exchange, which is linked to the Mt. Gox that occurred in 2014, came back to life this Wednesday (23) and sent a total of 10,000 Bitcoins (US$ 165 million) to two unidentified recipients. It was the wallet’s biggest transaction since August 2017,

As part of the transaction, which took place this morning, a wallet that received 3,500 Bitcoin units forwarded 300 BTC to another destination. The amount was then divided further and ended up in several other wallets not assigned to any known escrow service.

The distribution pattern is open to interpretation: it’s possible that the wallet owner simply sent the money to other wallets owned, sent it to other people, or withdrawn it through an unofficial OTC (Over-the-Counter) desk. The remaining 6,500 stayed put.

to Mt. Gox, one of the first cryptocurrency exchanges on the market, had 744,408 BTC stolen and closed permanently in 2014. Alexander Vinnik, allegedly the operator of the BTC-e exchange (something he denies), was arrested in 2017 in a resort near Thessaloniki, in Greece, at the request of the US Department of Justice. He was accused of money laundering and other crimes.

The wallet involved in today’s transaction was attributed to BTC-e by blockchain analysis system Crystal Blockchain. The transfer was noticed by Russian crypto entrepreneur Sergey Mendeleev, who posted the observation on his Telegram channel. Crystal data provides a limited amount of information, which is open to interpretation.

Several countries such as Russia, France and the United States have tried to extradite Vinnik, who is a Russian citizen. He was extradited from Greece to France in 2020 and sentenced to five years in prison for money laundering. In August, he was sent to the US to face charges including computer intrusions, cyber attacks, ransomware scams, identity theft schemes and more, according to a 2020 indictment by the California court. He is now in Santa Rita Prison in California, according to the court filing.

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Soon after BTC-e closed down and its servers were seized by the FBI in 2017, a clone was started under the name WEX. After a year of operation, WEX froze all withdrawals and closed down. CEO Dmitri Vasilev said that he sold the exchange to Dmitri Khavchenko.

Before and after the closure, WEX wallets were drained of millions of dollars worth of crypto assets, reported CoinDesk, partner of the InfoMoney, in season. Users filed police reports and several investigations were launched in Russia and Kazakhstan. Over the years, Vasilev has been arrested in Italy, Poland and Croatia at the request of the Russian police, but always released soon after.

The most recent photo on Vasilev’s Instagram profile was posted on May 3, geotagged as taken in Amsterdam. In the image, Vasilev is in front of a store called Scamm.

In his public lectures, as well as in group chats with WEX users, Vasilev said that control of users’ cryptocurrencies has always been with the anonymous administrator of WEX. In 2019, another Russian citizen, named Alexei Bilyuchenko, confessed to being the trustee and said he was forced to transfer all the money to two unnamed officers of Russia’s Federal Security Service, according to a criminal file obtained by the BBC.

According to a WEX user group, Bilyuchenko is currently in a Russian prison called Matrosskaya Tishina, located in Moscow, because a letter sent to him through the prison’s official mail system was reported as received.

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