- Exmo Bitcoin CEO Pavel Lerner kidnapped in Kiev.
- Exchange hit by a DDoS attack at the same time.
- A spokesperson said users’ funds are “absolutely safe” and “we are doing everything possible to speed up the search for Pavel Lerner.”
LONDON – The CEO of a UK-registered bitcoin exchange has reportedly been kidnapped in Ukraine.
Pavel Lerner, 40, was reportedly dragged into a black Mercedes-Benz by men in balaclavas while leaving the Kiev offices of his company, Exmo Bitcoin, on December 26, according to local media reports.
The exchange business is registered in the UK and also has a presence in Spain, Russia, India, and Thailand, according to the Telegraph.
Russian-born Lerner lists a Kiev address for correspondence, according to filings with Britain’s Companies House. He is listed as a person with “significant control” of Exmo Finance, which runs Exmo Bitcoin.
The BBC confirmed with Kiev police that a man was kidnapped but said police would not name the person who had been abducted.
Shortly after the incident, Exmo tweeted that it was facing a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack intended to disrupt its exchange.
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
Exmo spokesman Anatoliy Larin told the BBC:
“We are doing everything possible to speed up the search for Pavel Lerner.
“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.”
The details of Lerner’s kidnapping are unclear. But the cryptocurrency world has become a magnet for hackers and criminals looking to make easy money.
Bitcoin has rocketed over 1,500% against the dollar during 2017 and currently stands at close to $14,400 (£10,665). Its rapid rise has been mirrored by other cryptocurrencies.
As a result, cryptocurrency exchanges and others who deal with high volumes of cryptocurrencies have become targets of hackers trying to rob them. Cryptocurrency Tether was hit by a $31 million hack earlier this year and cybersecurity researchers have found evidence of growing interest from North Korean hackers in bitcoin.
Exmo was first registered in the UK in 2014 and claims to have close to 1 million customers globally, according to its website. It is the 22nd largest exchange globally by volume, according to industry data source CoinMarketCap.com.