Pavel Lerner, a senior employee at a United Kingdom-registered cryptocurrency exchange was abducted by Kidnappers in Ukraine. He was released after a huge ransom was paid of around $1 million (or 750,000 pounds) in Bitcoin as announced by an advisor to the Ukrainian interior minister.
Lerner is a blockchain expert as well as a leading analyst. He was taken hostage on 26th December according to the website of the firm he worked for known as EXMO Finance. This is quite shocking as this is quite possibly the first case in which a ransom was demanded in Bitcoin. With Bitcoin being highly popular these days, everyone wants to buy Bitcoin due to speculation that it could go even higher than it currently is thus demanding Bitcoin as ransom would be much better than receiving money.
Anton Gerashchenko, the advisor to Interior MinisterArsen Avakov, said in phone had similar things to say as he said: “This is the first such case in Ukraine linked to bitcoins”. This incident is a matter of great concern for many top exchanges and Bitcoin holders alike since this will probably set off a new trend of targeting people with large Bitcoin holdings. This is totally possible given how Blockchain transactions can be traced, which is a major drawback of public cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin. As for Pavel’s case, it’s still not known properly who paid the ransom.
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Lerner’s position in EXMO was not in the technical side nor it involved any access to the financial assets of EXMO’s users (according to EXMO anyway). According to EXMO, the exchange was functioning properly which begs the question, how and why did the kidnappers specifically target Pavel? These are questions that should be considered, but Pavel’s safety is more important right now.
A statement made by the company said: “At the moment, he is safe, and there was no physical harm inflicted on him,”. However, Pavel may not be feeling so good mentally which the company also touched upon: “Nevertheless, Pavel is currently in a state of major stress, therefore, he will not provide any official comments in the coming days.”
News broke of Pavel’s release from the kidnappers after Bitcoin fell again due to regulators imposing strict rules on the cryptocurrency market to prevent inflated prices due to speculation. However, Bitcoin rebounded before the news of the release broke. Bitcoin was not the only one to rebound either as many cryptocurrencies surged in value.
A local news website reported on how Pavel got kidnapped. Their report says that six men in dark clothes and balaclavas armed with guns pushed and took Pavel in their minibus which also had stolen number plates.
A Kiev policewoman reported that the police have begun investigation on the matter as soon as it was reported that a man was kidnapped in Obolon district of Kiev, Oksana Blyshchyk. The policewoman however, did not name the victim so we don’t know if she’s talking about the same person here or not.
According to the most recent update by EXMO, it has around 900,000 registered users. Kiev police have begun a criminal investigation after a man was kidnapped in the Obolon district of Kiev, Oksana Blyshchyk, the Kiev police spokeswoman said by phone without revealing the name of the victim.
EXMO has 900,000 users as of December 2017, according to its website.“We would like to note that the story of Pavel’s abduction has overgrown with rumours that might tamper with the official investigation,” EXMO said in its statement. “That said, EXMO currently refrains from any comments or suggestions of own versions of the possible scenario, in the nearest future.”
It could be that there’s more to the story than what EXMO is telling us which is why they choose to remain silent for now. The matter is definitely concerning for everyone since it could possibly start a new trend of abducting people with high crypto holdings.