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The mystery of $ 400 million that disappeared in Russia without a trace

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Manish Saini
Manish works as a Journalist and writer at Revyuh.com. He has studied Political Science and graduated from Delhi University. He is a Political engineer, fascinated by politics, and traditional businesses. He is also attached to many NGOs in the country and helps poor children to get a basic education. Email: Manish (at) revyuh (dot) com

It was the year 2011 when Alexei Bilyuchenko and Alexander Vinnik met through the internet. Lovers of new technologies and new ways of moving money, they soon locked a friendship that resulted in an agreement to work together: in a few months, they set up BTC-e, a cryptocurrency company that soon became one of the biggest markets. It was just the beginning of a plot that, to this day, remains unsolved.

In a matter of months, BTC-e became the third largest cryptocurrency company in the world, which had a great secret to becoming attractive: unlike many of the companies in the sector, they did not require their clients to identify, so many organized groups found a unique opportunity to launder their capital without being persecuted. Convert real money into cryptocurrencies without being recognized.

It was three years after meeting when his company reached 2 million dollars (1.8 million euros) in daily transactions when they met in person for the first time. The business continued to grow and in 2016 they managed to reach 10 million dollars (9 million euros), something they celebrated with a joint holiday in Greece … but without knowing that the FBI was behind both of them for the alleged money laundering that could be happening in your company.

According to ‘BBC’, the authorities arrested Vinnik as the main responsible, while Bilyuchenko returned to Russia on the first flight to try to fix his company’s problems. After learning that the FBI had taken control of BTC-e, he decided to open a second company, called Wex cryptocurrency exchange service, in order to access the backup servers of his first company and return the investments to his former clients, something he did successfully.

Wex began to grow, until managing funds valued at 450 million dollars (400 million euros) … and, suddenly, everything vanished. Soon, customers began claiming their missing money, claiming it was a scam, so they soon denounced Bilyuchenko, who was summoned by justice to explain what had happened. And his story could not be more strange: he said Russia had ‘stolen’ control of his company.

A hoax?

According to his own testimony, he had a meeting with agents of the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation (FSB), who had “suggested” him to transfer all Wex money to his own fund to be monitored. Bilyuchenko says he made the transaction and that, only a few days later, he realized what had happened: he had been scammed. The money had not been moved to the fiscal coffers, but to someone unknown.

Bilyuchenko says that, when creating Wex, he sought partners who would give him protection, at which point he was introduced to a Russian tycoon linked to the rebel fighters of Ukraine. And before the authorities he declared that after that meeting, FSB agents appeared, so he is convinced that his money went to that direction. But neither the authorities nor the investors are so clear that this is the truth and, for the moment, they continue looking for where the money is.

As ‘BBC’ reports, Bilyunchenko remains hidden in his house in Novosibirsk, where he is under continuous surveillance by private security guards who are responsible for protecting him. Similarly, the circle near the Russian tycoon denies any link with Wex or its owner, while Vinnik remains in prison since he was arrested. And, meanwhile, more than 400 million euros are still missing somewhere in the world …

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