By Ovunc Kutlu
ISTANBUL (AA) - Europol announced Monday it has seized crypto wallets worth about €18 million ($19.5 million) in cryptocurrency, vehicles, and electronic equipment in action against Hong Kong-registered crypto exchange platform Bitzlato.
The EU agency said it has arrested five individuals so far, searched eight houses, taken down digital infrastructure for further investigation, and frozen more than 100 accounts involving a total of €50 million.
"Targeting crucial crime facilitators such as crypto exchanges is becoming a key priority in the battle against cybercrime," Europol said in a statement.
"Law enforcement authorities took down the digital infrastructure of the service, based in France, and interrogated leading members of the platform’s management. The operation also involved law enforcement and judicial authorities from Belgium, (Greek) Cyprus, Portugal, Spain and the Netherlands," it added.
Noting that Bitzlato allowed the rapid conversion of various crypto assets into Russian rubles, Europol said it estimates the platform has received a total of assets worth €2.1 billion.
The US Justice Department announced last week it had taken action against Bitzlato and arrested its founder Anatoly Legkodymov, a Russian national, in Miami, Florida.