Bitzlato crypto exchange co-founder pleads guilty to AML violations

Russian co-founder of crypto exchange Bitzlato, Anatoly Legkodymov, pleaded guilty to money laundering charges.

According to a press release published by the U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ) on Dec. 6, 2023 Legkodymov pleaded guilty to operating a money transmitting business that “transported and transmitted” over $700 million in illicit funds.

The DoJ claims Bitzlato was a primary provider for dark market purchasers and sellers, as well as a “safe haven for ransomware criminals.” Under the plea agreement, Legkodymov will dissolve Bitzlato and will release any claim over $23 million in seized assets of the crypto exchange.

“Legkodymov’s guilty plea today confirms that he was well aware that Bitzlato, his cryptocurrency exchange, was being used like an open turnstile by criminals eager to take advantage of his lax controls over illicit money transactions.”

U.S. Attorney Breon Peace

Bitzlato’s Legkodymov was arrested on claims of money laundering in January 2023 shortly after the U.S. Department of Justice announced a significant worldwide crypto enforcement action.

Bitzlato is believed to have been connected to Hydra Market, an online illicit narcotic marketplace that prosecutors say was linked to criminal activities such as money laundering, drug trafficking, sales of illegally acquired financial information, and fraudulent identities.

The Treasury’s FinCEN later revealed that Bitzlato’s transactions were heavily linked to Binance, a cryptocurrency exchange whose founder Changpeng Zhao stepped down in late November 2023 as part of a $4.3 billion settlement agreement with U.S. regulators. Binance has since taken the step to suspend accounts linked to transactions from the exchange as further investigations proceed.

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