Financial Times yesterday reported unverified news that Exmo exchange manager Pavel Lerner who was kidnapped by an armed gang this week, paid a ransom of $1 million equivalent of Bitcoins to secure his release.
The news report was according to Anton Gerashchenko, who is an adviser to the Ukrainian interior minister. It said that Kiev kidnap on Tuesday in his office but frees Thursday.
Mr Gerashchenko told the Financial Times,
“He was kidnapped by an arming gang for the purpose of extorting bitcoins. We have operative information that he paid more than $1m worth of bitcoins”.
The company earlier this week assured customers that their funds were “absolutely safe” and that Lerner’s job at Exmo did not “assume access either to storages or any personal data of users.”
Exmo Finance is registered in the U.K. but also has operations in Ukraine.
If true, the development adds to the criminal activity related to Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies in general: criminal activity has increased in the recent past. This is partly because of increase in prices for Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. But while criminal activities such as hacking and phishing are widely familiar. Thus kidnaping for purposes of extorting money is not common in the cryptocurrency scenes. For instance, Youbit lost 17 percent of assets in a cyber attack that forced its closure.
Exmo also reports on Thursday that hit by a cyber attack which affects its website.
EXMO said in its statement,
“We would like to note that the story of Pavel’s abduction has overgrown with rumours that might tamper with the official investigation”.
The news of his kidnapping was first reporting on Tuesday in the local media such as Strana.ua. Thus, saying witnesses saw Lerner being bundles into a black Mercedes-Benz by people wearing dark clothes and balaclavas.
“This is the first such case in Ukraine linked to bitcoin”.
Ukraine’s National Police told FT that a criminal case relating to kidnapping of a foreigner in Kiev’s Obolon had been files with them but they could not verify identity of the victim. The police have begun investigations.