A Russian criminal mastermind, who had been involved in laundering bitcoins to the tune of $4 billion for criminals has finally been arrested in Greece. Alexander Vinnik was arrested on Tuesday in Greece and yesterday a jury in the United States indicted him on Wednesday. Vinnik operated a Bitcoin exchange which was meant for trading bitcoins but according to investigators, it was an elaborate multibillion dollar money laundering operation for criminals.

A major breakthrough

Bitcoin had emerged as a truly revolutionary breakthrough in the world of finance since it allowed individuals to send money all over the world without having to go through a central bank or any bank for that matter.

However, like many other great inventions, the cryptocurrency has also been put to misuse by criminals due to the anonymity that it provides to those who deal with it. Alexander Vinnik had been in charge of the Bitcoin exchange BTC-e, where people could trade in Bitcoins. However, behind the exchange lay a multibillion dollar money laundering operation that shielded the nefarious activities of a variety of criminals starting from drug dealers to computer hackers.

The United States justice department in collaboration with other Federal agencies cracked the case and US attorney Brian Stretch spoke about the possible misuses of crypto currencies. “Just as new computer technologies continue to change the way we engage each other and experience the world, so too will criminals subvert these new technologies to serve their own nefarious purposes,”

Russian cyber criminals in trouble

Over the past few months, US law enforcement authorities have gone after Russian cyber criminals quite extensively and Alexander Vinnik's arrest is the latest in the long line of arrests.

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Only last week, two dark web marketplaces which dealt in illegal items like drugs and guns among others were busted. The intensity with which Russian cyber criminals are being chased is directly related to the interference of Russian hackers in the Presidential election last year and has been described by many in the US security establishment as a huge embarrassment for the country.

The authorities also believe that Vinnik was responsible for hacking the Japanese Bitcoin exchange Mt Gox and bringing about its eventual collapse back in 2014. The funds stolen from Mt Gox were then diverted to Vinnik's own Bitcoin exchange.