In a shocking series of events, Binance, one of the world’s leading cryptocurrency exchanges, successfully froze approximately $11.8 million worth of stolen cryptocurrency assets. The funds had been taken from executives who fell victim to a kidnapping scheme in Montenegro. This incident once again highlights the vulnerabilities within the crypto space and the measures that can be taken to combat criminal activities.
Kidnapping Scheme and Stolen Crypto Assets
A group of executives, representing an undisclosed client company, was lured into a fraudulent business trip and subsequently abducted. During their ordeal, the executives were coerced into transferring their cryptocurrency holdings, primarily in the stablecoin USDT, to a Tron wallet operated by the kidnappers. The total value of the stolen assets amounted to approximately $11.8 million.
Binance’s Role in Freezing the Stolen Funds
Changpeng Zhao, the CEO of Binance, took to the social media platform X to reveal the sophisticated scam and the subsequent freezing of the stolen funds. He explained that while Bitcoin transactions are traceable, freezing the assets relied on their transfer through centralized exchanges like Binance. By taking timely action, Binance and its partners successfully prevented the criminals from accessing more than 90% of the illicitly obtained funds.
Furthermore, as part of its efforts to comply with regulatory demands and reposition itself globally, Binance has announced the cessation of accepting deposits in Russian rubles (RUB) effective November 15. This decision follows Binance’s sale of its Russian subsidiary to CommEX, a Russian-based cryptocurrency firm. Users will have until January 20, 2024, to withdraw any remaining RUB balances. The move aligns with Binance’s previous announcement in September to withdraw from the Russian market due to evolving geopolitical and economic landscapes.