Thousands of bomb threats have reportedly been issued against public facilities in Russia since a BBC Russia report in November linked Russian-nationalist businessman Konstantin Malofeev and Russian intelligence agency the FSB to the theft of $450 million USD in bitcoins from the WEX exchange.
On Monday, December 16th, Interfax reported that ten district courts in Moscow received bomb threats related to the case.
“People have now been evacuated from the Shcherbinsky, Savyolovsky, Kuntsevsky, Dorogomilosky, Kuzminsky, Koptevsky, Khamovnichesky, Khoroshevsky, Chertanovsky, and Nikulinsky district courts due to bomb scares,” a city court official told the outlet.
As well, “Similar messages were received by courts in St. Petersburg.”
Many of the threatening emails reportedly refer directly to Malofeev, a pro-life, conservative Russian investor who runs an Orthodox Christian TV station:
“Representatives of several courts that received bomb threats told Interfax earlier that in a number of cases the messages said the threats would continue until businessman Konstantin Malofeyev ‘repays his debt of 120 bitcoins stolen (worth $900 000 USD) from the WEX exchange.'”
Malofeev is also known for backing militant Russian nationalist separatists in Eastern Ukraine.
WEX opened shop after the BTC-e exchange ceased running when its alleged administrator, Alexander Vinnik, was arrested in Greece in 2017. [justice.gov]
WEX founder Alexei Bilyuchenko was reportedly Vinnik’s lesser-known partner at BTC-e. According to the BBC, at the same time as Vinnik was being arrested by Greek police and American Secret Service agents in Thessaloniki, in another part of Greece, a tipped-off Bilyuchenko was smashing his laptop and throwing the pieces into the sea.
Bilyuchenko escaped arrest in Greece and made it back to Russia, where he was reportedly convinced to revive BTC-e as WEX by Dmitry Vasilyev, a bitcoin broker with many large Asian clients fond of BTC-e’s anonymous trading services.
In the fall of 2017, BTC-e’s remaining customer base started transferred their trading to WEX.
Unfortunately, as business at WEX picked up, Bilyuchenko reportedly began receiving visits from the businessman Malofeev, who allegedly started pressuring him bring the exchange under the influence of Russia’s military intelligence agency, the FSB.
Bilyuchenko seems to have resisted the pressure until April of this year, when he claims he was forcibly flown to Moscow and compelled to turn over user data and $450 million USD in user cryptocurrencies and funds to the FSB.
According to the Times of India, approximately 770,000 people have been evacuated in Moscow from 8000 buildings targeted by the bomber alleging theft of funds from WEX.
Facilities evacuated in response to the threats include kindergartens, courts, schools and hospitals. To date, no bombs have been found at any of the locations targeted by threats.
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