Pavel Lerner, the managing director of the cryptocurrency exchange EXMO kidnapped in Kiev Dec. 27, was released today after paying a $1 mln ransom in Bitcoin, The Financial Times (FT) reports.
Lerner was abducted in Kiev on Wednesday leaving his office. Ukrainian online publication Strana.ua was first to report that he was taken away by “unknown persons” in a black Mercedes Benz.
FT reports they were informed of the ransom payment by Anton Gerashchenko, an adviser to the Ukrainian interior minister. Gerashchenko told FT:
“He was kidnapped by an armed gang for the purpose of extorting Bitcoins. We have operative information that he paid more than $1 mln worth of Bitcoins.”
In an article published today, Strana.ua reported that sources in the local police believe the kidnappers were frightened into releasing Lerner after the story of his abduction garnered so much attention globally.
EXMO reps release statement
Today EXMO released an official statement about Lerner’s abduction. The statement reports that the company “got a hold” of Lerner today and that he is currently safe:
“At the moment, he is safe, and there was no physical harm inflicted on him. Nevertheless, Pavel is currently in a state of major stress; therefore, he will not provide any official comments in the coming days.”
The EXMO statement contains no mention of a ransom paid of any amount. In the statement, the exchange repeated that Lerner’s abduction in no way affected the company’s usual functioning:
“We would also like to point out that Pavel’s activity at EXMO did not involve an access to financial assets of our users. Despite the aforementioned, the platform continues its usual operations.”
However, according to the company’s official Twitter, the exchange was under DDoS attack just yesterday, Dec. 28.
EXMO is under the DDoS attack.
The site will be available within half an hour.
We apologize for the temporary inconvenience.
Sincerely, The EXMO Team
— EXMO (@Exmo_com) December 28, 2017
According to Strana.ua, Lerner is a Russian citizen who holds a residence permit in Poland and is involved in a number of crypto/ Blockchain startups in Ukraine. FT reports that EXMO is officially registered in the UK, but has “operations in Ukraine.”
As per EXMO’s official statement today, the investigation into Lerner’s abduction continues and the identities of the kidnappers are still unknown. Once identified, the perpetrators could face up to five years imprisonment, in accordance with article 146.2 of the Ukrainian criminal code, which covers abduction for “mercenary purposes” or by a group of people “upon their prior conspiracy.”