New Zealand police yesterday said they have seized US$90 million from Alexander Vinnik, a Russian bitcoin fraud suspect who is in French custody, but is also wanted in the US.
New Zealand Police Commissioner Andrew Coster said the police had worked closely with the US Internal Revenue Service in the case.
He said the money likely reflected illicit profits from thousands of victims.
The money is the most ever seized by New Zealand police.
The US has accused Vinnik of laundering billions of dollars through BTC-e, one of the world’s largest digital currency exchanges.
His native Russia also wants to put him on trial.
Vinnik said he had acted as a technical consultant to the BTC-e platform and had no knowledge of any illegal activity.
Vinnik was arrested in the summer of 2017 while on a family holiday in northern Greece, at the request of US authorities.
After a two-year legal tug-of-war, Vinnik was extradited from Greece to France. French officials in January filed preliminary charges of money laundering and extortion against Vinnik.
He denies any wrongdoing and was on hunger strike for 35 days to protest his extradition to France.
He wanted to go to Russia instead, where he faces lesser charges.
Vinnik’s lawyer said her client was hospitalized upon arrival in France because of the hunger strike.
Greek authorities had ruled that Vinnik should be extradited first to France, then to the US and finally to Russia.
New Zealand police said they had restrained NZ$140 million (US$90.32 million) from Canton Business Corp and its owner, Vinnik, who were holding funds in a New Zealand company.
New Zealand prides itself on the ease of doing business and setting up companies, although it has sometimes been targeted by criminals from abroad, who create shell companies.
Coster said there was always a risk that New Zealand companies would be used in international money laundering.
“However, this restraint demonstrates that New Zealand is not, and will not be, a safe haven for the illicit proceeds generated from crime in other parts of the world,” Coster said in a statement.
New Zealand’s companies register shows that Vinnik owned a company called WME Capital Management from 2008 until 2012, although the register does not list him as a shareholder in any companies beyond that date.
New Zealand police froze the money, and plan to apply to the High Court to have the funds forfeited.
Oscar-winning actress Susan Sarandon and Scream star Melissa Barrera were each dropped by Hollywood companies after making comments on the Israel-Hamas war that some deemed anti-Semitic. Spyglass Media Group, the production company behind the upcoming Scream VII, acknowledged Barrera’s exit from the horror franchise. The Mexican-born actress, who starred in In the Heights and the two recent Scream installments, had posted statements on Instagram Stories calling the war “genocide and ethnic cleansing.” “Gaza is currently being treated like a concentration camp,” she wrote. Spyglass said in a statement that its position “is unequivocally clear: We have zero tolerance for antisemitism or the incitement
‘SYMBOLIC ATTACK’: Ukraine said it downed 74 of the Iranian-made drones, but five people were wounded in Kyiv, as people marked Holodomor Remembrance Day Ukraine on Saturday said it had downed 74 out of 75 drones Russia launched at it overnight, in what it said was the biggest such attack since the start of the invasion in February last year. The Ukrainian army said Russia had launched a “record number” of Iranian-made Shahed drones, the majority of which targeted Kyiv, causing power cuts as temperatures dipped below freezing. The drone attack came as Ukraine marked Holodomor Remembrance Day, commemorating the 1930s starvation of millions in Ukraine under Soviet leader Joseph Stalin. “The enemy launched a record number of attack drones at Ukraine. The main direction
Ecologists from the National Autonomous University of Mexico on Friday relaunched a fundraising campaign to bolster conservation efforts for axolotls, an iconic, endangered fish-like type of salamander. The campaign, called “Adoptaxolotl,” asks people for as little as 600 pesos (US$35) to virtually adopt one of the tiny “water monsters.” Virtual adoption comes with live updates on your axolotl’s health. For less, donors can buy one of the creatures a virtual dinner. In their main habitat the population density of Mexican axolotls has plummeted 99.5 percent in under two decades, scientists behind the fundraiser said. Last year’s Adoptaxolotl campaign raised just more than 450,000
CLAIMS: The North Korean leader reportedly inspected images taken by his new spy satellite of Pearl Harbor and a US nuclear-powered aircraft carrier in Busan State media yesterday said that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un reviewed images taken by his country’s new spy satellite of a US naval base at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii and “major target” sites across South Korea. Pyongyang said it put a military spy satellite into orbit this week, but Seoul said it was too early to determine if the satellite was functioning as the North claims. Experts have said putting a working reconnaissance satellite into orbit would improve North Korea’s intelligence-gathering capabilities, particularly over South Korea, and provide crucial data in any military conflict. Pyongyang previously said, within hours of the