AML investigation results in NZ police freezing $140 million

Police have collected $140 million from the Canton Business Corporation and its owner Alexander Vinnik, who were holding funds in a New Zealand firm. It is the largest money concealment of its kind in New Zealand history.

Vinnik previously operated BTC-e, a crypto exchange that functions from the United States. As per reports, the exchange lacked proper anti-money laundering (AML) controls and policies.

The police’s asset recovery unit has impeded a total of approximately $165.4 million in cash and bank accounts and assets worth $63 million in the last 11 months.
Cyber-criminals laundered the funds of various criminal enterprises through the company, including computer hacking, ransomware attacks, fraud, corruption, and drug crime via BTC-e.

Vinnik was detained in Greece in 2017 and has since been extradited to France where he is still in Police custody. The law enforcement agencies worked closely with the US Internal Revenue Service on the case.

Andrew Coster, the Police Commissioner said:
“These funds are likely to reflect the profit gained from the victimization of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of people globally as a result of cyber-crime and organized crime,”

Since money-laundering was happening everywhere across the globe, there was always a risk that New Zealand companies could become involved unintentionally, but the legal action demonstrated that New Zealand was not a safe haven for the proceeds of money laundering.

According to Coster, “The global criminal community needs to understand New Zealand’s financial system, and companies established here, are not the places to try to hide illicit income.”  The investigation is ongoing and an application is sent to the High Court seeking confiscation of the funds.