On Tuesday, Pavel Lerner, a cryptocurrency expert, was taken by an armed gang that were wearing ski masks near his office that is located in Ukraine. The incident was a kidnap-for-ransom scheme. However, it has a high-tech twist: instead of asking for paper money that is easily traceable, the kidnappers demanded to be paid in bitcoins amounting to $1 million. It turns out that Cyrus Vance, the NY County District Attorney, was right when he said that we could anticipate for crimes that are cryptocurrency-related (outside of cyber attacks) to occur more frequently as its value increases. Vance made the said statement after some armed robbers held up a victim at gunpoint earlier in December in order to steal $1.8 million worth of virtual coins in the city of New York in the United States.
For the criminals, Lerner was an excellent target as he is a well-known bitcoin authority in Ukraine and is also an executive at Exmo, a cryptocurrency exchange. Shocked but alive, Lerner was thankfully released a couple of days later. However, it is not clear who made the Bitcoin transfer for him and whether Lerner did it himself. The company of Lerner has guaranteed users that their coins are “absolutely safe” and that the kidnappers would not have gained access to their wallets and personal data since Lerner has no access to them.
We are going to assume that the criminals have already moved or sold their stash whatever the source was since they had to deal with the fluctuating prices of the virtual currency otherwise. The National Police of Ukraine already started a criminal case in order to investigate on the abduction of Lerner — it is the first bitcoin-related incident in the country, but it will probably be just one of the many that we will hear about going forward.