Bitzlato co-founder released from brief arrest and questioning: Report

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Bitzlato co-founder released from brief arrest and questioning: Report



Local Russian media outlets reported on Monday that Bitzlato co-founder Anton Shkurenko was detained in Moscow on Feb. 6 at the request of Interpol. However, according to a Feb. 10 report from CoinDesk, Shkurenko was stopped and detained by the local police for an identity check, then promptly let go after a conversation.

Shkurenko said he is not involved in any criminal cases in Russia, while not disclosing details of the investigation:

“I hope I convinced the prosecutor of my innocence.”

He did not specify the sector of law enforcement that detained him, though he mentioned he signed a contract to appear when and if requested by investigators. Shkurenko, therefore, received a no-detention warrant to skirt future arrests.

At the time of arrest, Shkurenko attests that he is a “tech consultant” for Bitzlato. However, he reportedly held the keys for the exchange’s crypto wallets, though they have since been handed over to other team members.

Bitzlato still has around 100 active employees despite the recent crackdowns from global authorities. Shkurenko told CoinDesk that a relaunch of the exchange, with a base in Russia, could happen in the near future. 

“I could launch the exchange from my apartment.“

According to the co-founder, the team has held onto the majority of its users’ funds. Shkurenko said he could “quickly” resume operations.

Related: Cleaning up crypto: How much enforcement is too much?

This comes on the heels of a series of updates involving Bitzlato’s operational status. On Jan. 18, authorities in the United States took action against the exchange with accusations of money laundering and allegedly bypassing sanctions against Russia.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, the exchange handled nearly $700 million of illicit funds. 

As the investigation against the exchange continues, various prominent companies in the crypto space have been called out for connections with Bitzlato. One is Binance, named by the U.S. Financial Crimes Enforcement Network a major receiver of Bitcoin (BTC) from the exchange.

LocalBitcoins, another cryptocurrency platform, shut down on Feb. 9 and was also linked to Bitzlato as a big sender of BTC. 

On Jan 23. Europol reported that it seized $19.5 million in crypto in an enforcement action against Bitzlato. A little over a week later, on Feb. 2, Spanish authorities detained the exchange’s CEO.