The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has indicted two Russian individuals, 43-year-old Alexey Bilyuchenko and 29-year-old Aleksandr Verner, for their alleged involvement in one of the largest Bitcoin thefts in history. The charges relate to the notorious Mt. Gox hack that unfolded between 2011 and 2014.
BREAKING: The 2011 hackers of more than 600K bitcoin from the Mt. Gox exchange have been identified as two Russians, according to a DOJ indictment.
— unusual_whales (@unusual_whales) June 9, 2023
Previously the world’s leading Bitcoin exchange, Japan’s Mt. Gox had to cease operations in 2014 due to a devastating cyber-attack. The hackers made off with an eye-watering 850,000 Bitcoins, equivalent to a staggering $22.6 billion in today’s value.
It is alleged that Bilyuchenko and Verner conspired to steal around 647,000 Bitcoins from the beleaguered exchange. This significant figure, according to the DOJ, accounts for the vast majority of the Bitcoins that belonged to the customers of Mt. Gox.
A Long Wait for Restitution
Investors who were left high and dry by the Mt. Gox meltdown have been eagerly waiting for their refunds. Nobuaki Kobayashi, the Rehabilitation Trustee, has been handling the cumbersome task of reimbursing the victims. In 2021, creditors approved a rehabilitation proposal, which pledged to pay back about 90% of the assets due to the impacted customers. To get their funds back, these investors had to file claims in March.
Tangled Web: The BTC-e Connection
The DOJ’s charges against Bilyuchenko extend beyond the Mt. Gox incident. He is further implicated in a conspiracy with another Russian, Alexander Vinnik, to run BTC-e, a cryptocurrency exchange that is now defunct.
BTC-e, active from 2011 to 2017, processed an estimated $9 billion in Bitcoin transactions within the United States. The exchange has previously been accused by the DOJ of providing a platform for criminals to trade Bitcoin anonymously, thereby facilitating money laundering.
A Litany of Charges
In light of these allegations, Bilyuchenko has been charged with money laundering conspiracy and operating an unlicensed money services business. Concurrently, Verner faces accusations of conspiracy to commit money laundering.
As this story unfolds, it underscores the ongoing war against cybercrime, particularly in the realm of cryptocurrencies. For many, the indictments bring a glimmer of hope to countless victims still awaiting justice following the Mt. Gox catastrophe.