Nobuaki Kobayashi, the trustee, requested details of the DOJ's investigation into BTC-e, a defunct crypto exchange with the Russian roots, his office announced Tuesday. Vinnik, allegedly BTC-e's operator, was arrested in the summer 2017 at the request of U.S. law enforcement and is now imprisoned in Greece.
Kobayashi contacted the DOJ after it brought a $100 million civil lawsuit against Vinnik this summer alleging he operated an unregistered money service business and failed to prevent money laundering.
"The Rehabilitation Trustee has contacted the U.S. Department of Justice through a U.S. law firm, and seeking further information," the trustee's office said in a statement.
The DOJ hadn't responded to CoinDesk's request for comment at press time.
'Russian recovery' pending
's creditors have become increasingly interested in BTC-e in recent months.
ZP Legal, a Russian law firm, claims it can recover up to 200,000 BTC from unnamed Russian nationals related to BTC-e and that it has already located some of the missing coins. Still, the creditors are hardly unified in wanting to work with ZP Legal, which wants a cut of the recovered BTC in return for its services. Kobayashi has yet to say if he wants to work with ZP on the "Russian recovery."
During a public meeting with the creditors Tuesday, the trustee remained non-committal, noting only that his team was contacted by ZP Legal and had requested further information about its offer. ZP's head Alexander Zheleznikov declined to comment for this article.
The meeting did reveal that two large claimants for Mt. Gox's remaining funds – Mt. Gox's parent company Tibanne Co. (led by the exchange's former CEO Mark Karpeles) and Mt. Gox's unsuccessful U.S. partner, CoinLab – have litigated claims previously denied by the trustee.
Tibanne asked for 82,507.7 BTC and $3.5 million (386 million Japanese yen) while CoinLab requested $15.7 billion (1,690 billion Japanese yen). The trustee approved the basis of the claims, but disputed the amounts demanded. The court hearing the case approved the trustee's assessment, and Tibanne has filed an appeal in the higher court, according to the trustee.
Kobayashi's team has burned through about $1.5 million (155 million Japanese yen) over the last six months and has now recovered a total of $644 million (69.4 billion Japanese yen) in previously lost funds. The creditors are due to meet the trustee again in March 2020.
Alexander Vinnik image via Shutterstock
The leader in news and information on cryptocurrency, digital assets and the future of money, CoinDesk is an award-winning media outlet that strives for the highest journalistic standards and abides by a strict set of editorial policies. In November 2023, CoinDesk was acquired by Bullish group, owner of Bullish, a regulated, institutional digital assets exchange. Bullish group is majority owned by Block.one; both groups have interests in a variety of blockchain and digital asset businesses and significant holdings of digital assets, including bitcoin. CoinDesk operates as an independent subsidiary, and an editorial committee, chaired by a former editor-in-chief of The Wall Street Journal, is being formed to support journalistic integrity.