US charges two Russians in hack of Mt. Gox crypto exchange

By Raphael Satter

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The United States has charged two Russian nationals in the hack of collapsed cryptocurrency exchange Mt. Gox, one of the world’s earliest, biggest and most widely publicized alleged bitcoin heists.

The department in a statement said Alexey Bilyuchenko, 43, and Aleksandr Verner, 29, were charged with conspiring to launder approximately 647,000 bitcoins from their hack of Mt. Gox, which collapsed in 2014 after losing what was then worth about half a billion dollars in cryptocurrency.

The event was one of the first signs of how vulnerable exchanges cryptocurrency users employ to transfer their digital assets into traditional cash were to committed cybercriminals. The industry has since suffered a string of massive thefts.

Reuters was not immediately able to locate contact details for Bilyuchenko or Verner. The pair’s whereabouts weren’t immediately clear.

Bilyuchenko was a key associate of Alexander Vinnik, a Russian cybercrime kingpin who was arrested in Greece in 2017, convicted of money laundering in France three years later and is now awaiting trial in California on charges of running BTC-e, a now-defunct Russian exchange the Department of Justice accused of catering to “cyber criminals around the world.”

When Vinnik was arrested, Bilyuchenko – who was staying elsewhere in Greece – narrowly avoided arrest by destroying his computer, tossing it into the sea and immediately flying back to Moscow, the BBC previously reported.

The Department of Justice said Bilyuchenko is also charged with conspiring with Vinnik to operate BTC-e from 2011 to 2017.

(Reporting by Raphael Satter in Washington; Additional reporting by Rami Ayyub; Additional writing by Paul Grant; Editing by Mark Porter)