New Zealand seizes $90 million in assets of Russian cybercrime suspect

WELLINGTON (Reuters) - New Zealand police have confiscated NZ $ 140 million (USD 90.68 million) of assets related to a Russian man suspected of laundering billions of dollars in digital currency .
The police said they confiscated the assets because they were held in a New Zealand company owned by Alexander Vinnik who is accused of producing a bitcoin laundry ring and which is sought by both France and the United States.
This is the biggest money restriction in New Zealand police history, the department said in a late Monday statement.
The US authorities accuse Vinnik of operating BTC-e - a digital wallet for trading Bitcoin - to facilitate crimes from computer hacking to drug trafficking since 2011.
Vinnik rejected the indictment and stated that he was a technical adviser to BTC-e and not its operator.
He was arrested in Greece in 2017 for allegations of money laundering and has since been extradited to France, where he is still detained. He is also wanted in Russia because of less charges.
New Zealand police commissioner Andrew Coster said the funds are likely to reflect the profits made from the victimization
by thousands of people worldwide.
"However, this reluctance shows that New Zealand is not and will not be a safe haven for illegal crime-related revenues in other parts of the world," he said.
The New Zealand police said they had worked closely with the United States Internal Revenue Service on this case and filed a motion with the High Court to forfeit these funds.
($ 1 = 1.5439 New Zealand dollar)

(Reporting by Praveen Menon; editing by Grant McCool)

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