Pavel Lerner, 40, was kidnapped on December 26 while leaving his office in Kiev, Ukraine. According to local media reports, a group of men wearing balaclavas grabbed him and forced him into a black Mercedes-Benz.
Lerner is an executive at EXMO, a UK-based cryptocurrency exchange that processes approximately $100 to $125 million in trades on a daily basis, primarily against the US dollar and the Russian ruble.
After spending nearly two days in captivity, Lerner was released on December 28 after paying a ransom of more than $1 million in bitcoins, according to a report in the Financial Times.
“He was kidnapped by an armed gang for the purpose of extorting bitcoins,” Anton Gerashchenko, a Ukranian official, told the publication, adding: “We have operative information that he paid more than $1m worth of bitcoins.”
Geraschenko said that Lerner was in a “state of shock” when he was released and was “very lucky that he remained alive.”
On Thursday — while Lerner was in captivity — EXMO revealed that it had been the subject of a DDOS attack, but it is not known whether the two incidents are related. The exchange assured users that, even in Lerner’s absence, the trading platform was operating as usual and that user funds remained safe.
As BlockExplorer explained its previous article on Lerner’s kidnapping, the incident is the latest in a small but growing trend of individuals being targeted by criminals for their cryptocurrency wealth.
Because decentralized cryptocurrency transactions are uncensorable and, in most cases, users retain control of their holdings, cryptocurrency executives and investors prove to be attractive targets for criminal enterprises.
Consequently, users should recognizing the risks of publicizing both their personal holdings and their affiliation with the industry in general and take steps to secure their investments against theft, just as they would with traditional assets.
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