The chief executive of UK-based bitcoin exchange EXMO has reportedly been kidnapped in Ukraine.
Pavel Lerner, 40, was leaving his office in Kiev on December 26 when he was pulled into a black Mercedes-Benz by a group of balaclava-wearing men, according to a local media report.
Lerner is the managing director of EXMO, a UK-based bitcoin exchange that processes about $100 million worth of trades on a daily basis, according to CoinMarketCap. Though based in the UK, EXMO’s most popular trading pairs are against the US dollar and the Russian ruble.
EXMO has not discussed the incident on its blog or social media channels, but the Telegraph reports that the company told a Russian broadcaster that the kidnapping would not affect the exchange’s day-to-day operations.
“We are doing everything possible to speed up the search of Pavel Lerner,” the statement said. “Any information regarding his whereabouts is very much appreciated. Despite the situation, the exchange is working as usual. We also want to stress that nature of Pavel’s job at EXMO doesn’t assume access either to storages or any personal data of users. All users funds are absolutely safe.”
On Dec. 28, EXMO revealed that it was suffering from a DDOS attack, but it is not currently known whether the two incidents are related.
Lerner’s kidnapping comes just weeks after a New York man allegedly stole $1.8 million in ether after kidnapping an unnamed victim and forcing them at gunpoint to hand over their mobile phone and private keys.
Authorities have not revealed the motive behind Lerner’s kidnapping, but both of these incidents highlight the inherent risks of “being your own bank.”
Individuals who are associated with cryptocurrency services like Lerner are obvious targets for nefarious individuals, as criminals may believe they can force them to transfer funds from company wallets.
However, as the earlier case demonstrates, ordinary cryptocurrency users are at risk, too, especially if they have publicly-revealed the size of their holdings or the fact that they invested in the markets at an early date.
Consequently, users may want to consider concealing their wealth from their family members, friends, and — most importantly — social media profiles.
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