A Russian man believed to be operating cryptocurrency exchanges associated with the laundering of ransomware proceeds was “practically kidnapped” by the United States after landing in the Netherlands, according to his attorney. The news, broken by Sputnik International, comes 13 days after the arrest of Denis Dubnikov, who is being indicted on money laundering charges. Dubnikov is co-owner of the Eggchange and Coyote Crypto exchange platforms and was on a vacation to Mexico before he was denied entry to the country.
An earlier report claimed Dubnikov was arrested for his connection to a 2018 cryptocurrency theft.
The arrest was pre-empted by blockchain analysis of ransomware payments received by the Ryuk group, which is estimated to have taken in over $100 million in such payments last year. Having formed in 2018, Ryuk has been on the short list of cybersecurity targets since the group started attacking hospitals in 2019, demanding ransomware payments for the decryption of essential data and restoration of systems.
According to Arkady Bukh, the accused’s U.S.-based lawyer, Dubnikov didn’t realize the cryptocurrency funds he had been receiving were in any way tied to ransomware payments. Furthermore, Dubnikov was assured he had been performing exchange operations within the bounds of Russian regulation, stating that he “had no knowledge or idea about the criminal acts of clients.”
“Mexico has not let (Dubnikov) enter the country,” Bukh told Sputnik. “The US intelligence services have put him on a plane to the Netherlands and sent him there having paid for his ticket. In other words, he was kidnapped in fact,” he said, adding that he believed the FBI was behind the arrest.
Because the US does not have an extradition agreement with Mexico, US law enforcement were unable to arrest Dubnikov on Mexican soil, choosing instead to re-route his destination away from Moscow and to a country with an extradition agreement: the Netherlands. It is not clear if Dubnikov knew the plane ticked he had was purchased by US law enforcement, who were waiting to arrest him upon landing in Amsterdam.
Dubnikov is the second Russian national apprehended internationally by US law enforcement for cryptocurrency-related crimes while on vacation. In 2017, BTC-E exchange founder Alexander Vinnik was arrested while vacationing in Greece, wanted on similar charges of money laundering.