Bitzlato Ltd., a cryptocurrency exchange, was founded and is primarily owned by an individual who facilitated transactions between buyers and sellers in dark markets.
The exchange acted as a conduit for such transactions to take place, making it an important player in the underground world of illicit activities involving digital currencies.
A cryptocurrency exchange works similarly to stock exchanges, which helps investors buy and sell in digital currencies such as Bitcoin, Ethereum, or Tether.
According to reports, Bitzlato Ltd. was identified as the primary entity involved in facilitating illegal transactions for the infamous online drug market, Hydra.
Exchange Founder Pleads Guilty
Hydra Market, the biggest and longest-running darknet market in the world, was Bitzlato’s biggest counterparty in cryptocurrency transactions.
Hydra Market was an online marketplace for drugs, financial information that had been stolen, false identification documents, and money laundering services.
Users exchanged more than $700 million worth of bitcoin with Bitzlato, either directly or through middlemen, before Hydra Market’s closure in April 2022 as a result of seizures made by German and American law enforcement.
“As alleged, Bitzlato advertised a haven for fraudsters, thieves, and other criminals to launder illicit proceeds — but their business model didn’t account for federal law enforcement,” said Deputy Attorney General Lisa O. Monaco.
Anatoly Legkodymov, a Russian national who resided in Shenzen, agreed to dissolve Bitzlato and to release any claim over approximately $23 million in Bitzlato’s seized assets.
Legkdoymov’s plea shows the impact on anyone who provides a haven for criminals and their illicit wealth.
According to the report, Bitzlato, a cryptocurrency exchange with global operations and a Hong Kong registration, advertised that it only needed minimal identification from its users; either selfies or passports are required.
The users of Bitzlato can directly submit identifying information, allowing them to provide information. It’s claimed that Bitzlato turned into a haven for money meant for use in illegal activities as a result of these inadequate know-your-customer (KYC) processes.
On multiple occasions, Legkodymov was informed that the cryptocurrency sent through Bitzlato was either meant for use in illegal transactions or was the proceeds of crime.
As a result of this illegal exchange, Legkodymov faces a maximum of 5 years in prison, but the government has not yet confirmed the date.