The Guardian reports that an employee of a U.K. bitcoin exchange has been released after a bitcoin ransom of $1 million was paid. EXMO Finance, the company that abductee Pavel Lerner works for, stated that the blockchain expert was kidnapped on Boxing Day while in Ukraine. The company said that Lerner had not been harmed, but would not be making any public comments due to stress.
“At the moment, he is safe, and there was no physical harm inflicted on him,” the company’s website states. “Nevertheless, Pavel is currently in a state of major stress, therefore, he will not provide any official comments in the coming days.”
While authorities are investigating the kidnapping, it is currently unclear as to who paid Lerner’s ransom. His work at EXMO does not involve access to financial assets and the exchange is currently operating normally.
Local news outlets reported that on Boxing Day, six armed men kidnapped Lerner and forced him into a car that was displaying stolen plates. Kiev police later responded to a call concerning a kidnapping in the Obolon district of Kiev, though the police spokesperson refused to reveal the name of the victim.
EXMO has expressed gratitude to the media and cryptocurrency community for their support of the company and Lerner during this time. However, it did caution that the kidnapping had spawned various rumors that could impede the work of law enforcement, so the company would not be making any more comments regarding the kidnapping.
In regards to the ransom, it is not yet known where it came from. However, the company has promised its users that their wallets and accounts are safe, as Lerner did not have access to them. Regardless, it is likely that the criminals have already sold their bitcoins due to the fact that the market is rather volatile right now, and holding onto them for too long could mean a decrease in value.
Ukraine authorities told the Guardian that this is the first bitcoin-related kidnapping the country has seen. However, it may not be the last and, thanks to the currency’s anonymity and untraceable nature, it has become very popular among criminal elements, though it has plenty of legitimate uses.