US arrests Russian crypto boss who ‘catered to known crooks’

Department of Justice says Anatoly Legkodymov operated the Hong Kong-registered Bitzlato exchange as a money laundering haven.

Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco announces the arrest of Russian national Anatoly Legkodymov, founder of the cryptocurrency exchange Bitzlato [Nathan Howard/The Associated Press]

United States authorities have arrested a Russian national accused of running a Hong Kong-registered cryptocurrency exchange as a money laundering outfit.

The US Department of Justice said Anatoly Legkodymov, 40, a Russian living in Shenzhen, China, is scheduled to be arraigned on Wednesday for his role in transmitting a total of $700m in illicit funds through the virtual currency exchange Bitzlato, which marketed itself as requiring minimal identification from users.

The arrest was conducted in conjunction with the US Department of the Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network and foreign authorities, officials said.

“Overnight, the Department worked with key partners here and abroad to disrupt Bitzlato, the China-based money laundering engine that fueled a high-tech axis of cryptocrime, and to arrest its founder, Russian national Anatoly Legkodymov,” US Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco told reporters in Washington, DC.

“Today’s actions send the clear message: whether you break our laws from China or Europe — or abuse our financial system from a tropical island — you can expect to answer for your crimes inside a United States courtroom,” Monaco added.

The arrest comes less than a month after the Department of Justice announced the extradition of another cryptocurrency leader, Sam Bankman-Fried, the former CEO of failed cryptocurrency firm FTX. He had been staying in the Bahamas and faces charges of fraud and money laundering.

The US Department of Justice hailed Legkodymov’s arrest in Miami, Florida, on Tuesday night as a “blow to the cryptocrime ecosystem”

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