Man Behind Defunct BTC-e Exchange Once Popular with Criminals Faces U.S. Charges

Aliaksandr Klimenka is accused of processing billions in transactions for drug peddlers and cybercriminals throughout much of the 2010s.

AccessTimeIconFeb 1, 2024 at 8:38 p.m. UTC
Updated Mar 8, 2024 at 8:53 p.m. UTC
  • Aliaksandr Klimenka was arrested in Latvia and has appeared in a San Francisco court to face U.S. money-laundering charges.
  • He and others are accused of laundering more than $4 billion tied to criminal activity until 2017.

One of the men behind BTC-e, a now-defunct crypto exchange once popular with cybercriminals and money launderers, has been arrested and charged in the U.S., the Department of Justice (DOJ) said Thursday.

The accusations against Belarusian-Latvian entrepreneur Aliaksandr Klimenka, unsealed on Tuesday, include several counts of money laundering and other felonies. Klimenka laundered more than $4 billion worth of proceeds from criminal activities, including ransomware scams, identity theft schemes and narcotics distribution rings in the early years of crypto between 2011 and 2017, according to the indictment.

Klimenka’s lawyer did not immediately respond to CoinDesk’s request for comment.

Klimenka also did “extensive business” in the U.S, despite failing to register his exchange as a money service with the U.S. Department of Treasury, in addition to continually skirting anti-money laundering regulations and “know your customer” safeguards required by federal law, according to the DOJ.

He is currently in federal custody in California, where he will remain for the duration of the court proceedings, the DOJ said. The erstwhile exchange operator was arrested last December in Latvia, at the behest of American authorities who requested his extradition to the U.S.

If convicted on all counts, Klimenka faces a maximum prison sentence of 25 years. He is the latest of several people who have faced criminal charges in recent years over their involvement with the exchange -- including Russian national Alexander Vinnik.

U.S. law enforcement agencies shut down BTC-e in 2017 and arrested Vinnik at a resort near Thessaloniki, Greece. The DOJ similarly accused Vinnik of money laundering and other crimes.

After a stint in a Greek prison, then a trial in France, Vinnik was finally extradited to the U.S. in 2022 to face indictment for “computer intrusions and hacking incidents, ransomware scams, identity theft schemes, corrupt public officials and narcotics distribution rings.”

Edited by Jesse Hamilton.


Please note that our privacy policy, terms of use, cookies, and do not sell my personal information has been updated.

CoinDesk is an award-winning media outlet that covers the cryptocurrency industry. Its journalists abide by a strict set of editorial policies. In November 2023, CoinDesk was acquired by the Bullish group, owner of Bullish, a regulated, digital assets exchange. The Bullish group is majority-owned by; both companies 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 with an editorial committee to protect journalistic independence. CoinDesk employees, including journalists, may receive options in the Bullish group as part of their compensation.

Elizabeth Napolitano

Elizabeth Napolitano was a news reporter at CoinDesk.