Belarusian-Latvian entrepreneur Aliaksandr Klimenka was apprehended on December 21, 2023, in Latvia by US authorities. He now faces charges of money laundering conspiracy and operating the unlicensed cryptocurrency exchange BTC-e.
According to a release
by the U.S The Department of Justice (DOJ), from 2011 to 2017, Klimenka together with his partner Alexander Vinnik and others, controlled the BTC-e exchange, and laundered around $4B worth of proceeds. Allegedly, he also controlled the tech company Soft-FX, and financial company FX Open.
The 42-year entrepreneur made his initial appearance in a San Francisco federal court on January 31. If found guilty, he faces a maximum sentence of 25 years in prison.
BTC-e was once a well-known and popular platform. In the spring of 2014, it ranked third globally in trading volume for the BTC/USD pair and first for the BTC/RUB pair. The platform primarily catered to a Russian-speaking audience and allowed completely anonymous Bitcoin trading. Law enforcement officials believe this anonymity contributed to a clientele heavily involved in criminal activities.
The exchange faced difficulties in 2017 when co-founder Alexander Vinnik was arrested in Greece. In an attempt to retain income and clients, the team rebranded the platform as WEX. However, it was also shut down, resulting in losses for all clients.
In 2023, Vinnik was extradited to the US, where he faces a potential 50-year prison sentence. It's worth noting that even before this, he encountered what some might call "karma": during his time in Greek and French jails, Vinnik lost his wife to cancer, and his lawyer, who tragically died after falling down a staircase.
With Klimenko's arrest, the BTC-e founders could potentially reunite, facing serious charges that may keep them together indefinitely.