A large amount of cryptocurrency kept in a wallet associated with crypto exchange Wex, successor of the infamous trading platform run by alleged money launderer Alexander Vinnik, has moved for the first time since 2017. The 10,000 bitcoins in question, worth over $165 million, have been transferred to new addresses in several transactions.
Bitcoin Stored in Dormant Wex Wallet Moves for the First Time in Five Years
The unknown holder of a bitcoin wallet linked to the now-defunct Wex, once the largest cryptocurrency exchange in the Russian-speaking market, has withdrawn 10,000 coins. Funds at this BTC address last moved in September 2017, when the same amount was sent out.
Wex was established in that year, following the collapse of BTC-e, which closed down after the arrest in Greece of one of its operators, Alexander Vinnik. The Russian IT specialist, who is currently in U.S. custody, is accused of laundering up to $9 billion through the exchange.
The transfer of the digital money was first noticed by Sergey Mendeleev, founder of cryptocurrency exchange Garantex and CEO of defi banking platform Indefibank. He revealed the discovery on his Telegram channel, according to a report by the leading Russian crypto news outlet Bits.media. The coins moved on Wednesday, Nov. 23.
Several transactions were made, including two likely test transfers of small amounts, before the 10,000 BTC was sent. 3,500 BTC was transferred to one address and 6,500 BTC went to another, likely a change address. The value of the withdrawn cryptocurrency, at the time of writing, exceeds $165 million in fiat equivalent.
Some $450 million was lost when Wex went offline in 2018. The platform is considered the successor of BTC-e, which allegedly processed money from the Mt Gox hack and other cybercrimes. It was operated by World Exchange Services, a company based in Singapore and co-founded by Aleksey Bilyuchenko, former partner of BTC-e’s administrator Alexander Vinnik.
Vinnik was detained in the summer of 2017 while on vacation in Thessaloniki. Besides the U.S., France and Russia also sought his extradition. In December 2019, Greek authorities handed him over to France where he served (taking into account pre-trial detention) a five-year sentence for money laundering. Vinnik was then returned to Greece which immediately transferred him to the United States where he is now facing multiple charges.
In March this year, Russian law enforcement detained a crypto entrepreneur associated with an unidentified crypto exchange and suspected of embezzling funds and property. At the time, Sergey Mendeleev claimed the arrested man was none other than Bilyuchenko. His ownership of Wex was exposed in a report by the BBC.
Dmitry Vasiliev, another co-owner and former chief executive of Wex, was arrested in Poland in August 2021 and later released by the Polish authorities before returning to Russia. In June 2022, he was also detained at the airport in Zagreb upon entering Croatia, on a red warrant issued by Interpol on request from Kazakhstan where he is wanted on fraud allegations.
In November last year, Mendeleev unveiled that the Russian Ministry of Interior had failed to act on a request by Wex users to help in the blocking and seizing of crypto funds removed from a wallet controlled by the exchange. Over 10,000 ETH, worth almost $46 million at the time, were withdrawn and transferred to other platforms.