Belarusian charged with crypto laundering

The US indicted Aliaksandr Klimenka over his involvement with the digital currency exchange BTC-e, which cybercriminals used to launder money.

Klimenka, 42, who holds Belarusian and Cypriot passports, allegedly controlled BTC-e together with Alexander Vinnik, who was extradited to the US in 2022.

“The indictment alleges BTC-e was a significant cybercrime and online money laundering entity that allowed its users to trade in bitcoin with high levels of anonymity and developed a customer base heavily reliant on criminal activity,” the US Department of Justice (DoJ) said.

The platform Klimenka and Vinnik controlled received criminal proceeds from ransomware operators, hacking groups, identity theft scammers, corrupt public officials, and narcotics distributors.

BTC-e servers were stationed in the US and used to facilitate the platform. The physical infrastructure was maintained by a company named Soft-FX, which was controlled by Klimenka. The platform itself was shut down in 2017.

“Despite doing substantial business in the United States, BTC-e allegedly was not registered as a money services business with the US Department of Treasury, had no anti-money laundering process, no system for appropriate know-your-customer verification, and no anti-money laundering program as required by federal law,” the DoJ said.

Klimenka was arrested in Latvia, a European Union and NATO member, several days before Christmas of 2023. He’s currently held in US custody and faces up to 25 years in prison if convicted.

BTC-e platform’s operators likely had a significant standing within the Russian cybercrime ecosystem, as the US offered to swap Vinnik and another cybercriminal in exchange for a jailed former US marine, Paul Whelan.

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