Cryptocurrency expert kidnapped for $1 million bitcoin ransom

Kidnappers are going high tech now.

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On Tuesday, cryptocurrency expert Pavel Lerner was snatched by an armed gang wearing ski masks near his office in Ukraine. It was a kidnap-for-ransom scheme, but with a high-tech twist: instead of asking for easily traceable paper money, the kidnappers demanded to be paid $1 million worth of bitcoins. Turns out NY County District Attorney Cyrus Vance was right when he said we can expect cryptocurrency-related crimes (outside of cyber attacks) to be more common as its value surges. Vance made the statement after armed robbers held up a victim at gunpoint earlier this month to steal $1.8 million worth of virtual coins in New York.

For the robbers, Lerner was a great target: he's a known bitcoin authority in Ukraine and is an executive at cryptocurrency exchange Exmo. He was thankfully released (shocked but alive) a couple of days later, but it's unclear who made the transfer for him and whether he did it himself. His company has assured users, though, that their coins are "absolutely safe" and that the kidnappers wouldn't have gotten access to their wallets and personal data since Lerner himself has no access to them.

We're going to assume the criminals have already sold or moved their stash whatever the source was, since they'd have to deal with the virtual currency's fluctuating prices otherwise. Ukraine's National Police already launched a criminal case to investigate Lerner's abduction -- it's the first bitcoin-related one in the country, but it'll probably be just one of the many we'll hear about going forward.