Russian lawyer wants to earn a billion dollars in the return of 200,000 bitcoins with MtGOX and BTC-e

Russian lawyer wants to earn a billion dollars in the return of 200,000 bitcoins with MtGOX and BTC-e

Alexander Zheleznikov, managing partner of ZP Legal, will try to return about 200,000 BTC stolen from the MtGox exchange. At the same time, he expects a reward of 50-75% of the return amount.

Moscow law firm ZP Legal (Zheleznikov & Partners) claims to be able to identify Russian citizens who received bitcoins stolen as a result of the 2014 MtGox hack.

According to MtGox lenders, ZP Legal representatives contacted them earlier this year and offered their assistance in returning nearly a quarter of the 850,000 bitcoins stolen as a result of the exchange hacking in 2014. (At the time of the theft, coins cost more than $ 480 million. Today, they are valued at almost $ 9 billion).

According to ZP Legal estimates, between 170,000 and 200,000 of these coins, which currently cost between $ 1.7 and $ 2 billion, can be returned through the prosecution of Russian citizens who misappropriated stolen crypto assets.

In exchange for his assistance, ZP Legal will charge lenders between 50 and 75 percent of the refunded amount, as well as the usual hourly rate. As a result, if the entire amount is returned, the remuneration of lawyers will be more than a billion dollars. ZP Legal declares that payment will be charged only if they manage to return the stolen bitcoins.

Alexander Zheleznikov, said that, in his opinion, part of the assets stolen from MtGox could get on the BTC-e cryptocurrency exchange, which also subsequently ceased to exist.

In 2017, at the request of the United States, he was arrested
BTC-e alleged cryptocurrency exchange manager Alexander Vinnik, who is currently awaiting extradition to the United States, Russia, or France.

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Zheleznikov believes that the criminal case against Vinnik, which the Russian authorities are also investigating, could be expedited if MtGox lenders help law enforcement agencies establish a connection between MtGox, BTC-e and its successor, the WEX cryptocurrency exchange, which has now also stopped
activity disappearing along with the balances of client deposits.

“We plan to represent MtGox lenders and help them cooperate with Russian law enforcement agencies so that investigators can, using the Vinnik case, establish a connection between the stolen funds with MtGox and BTC-e and WEX operations,” said Zheleznikov.

“If our assumptions about these connections are true, the perpetrators will eventually come forward and offer to return part of the funds to reduce the punishment. If they do not, then in the framework of the criminal case they will be sued for damage, ”he added.

Zheleznikov stated that his firm had contacted lawyers representing MtGox lenders through the Russian Embassy in Tokyo, and then contacted the lenders themselves.

Andy Pug, founder and former coordinator of MtGox Legal (MGL), the largest lender group, said ZP Legal contacted him for the first time on February 22, shortly after ZP Legal contacted Japanese lawyers working on the MtGox case.

“On February 15, 2019, ZP Legal lawyers met in Tokyo with MtGox lenders and separately with the lawyers of the MtGox Legal (MGL) lender group, MHM Japan. At that time, I was the MGL coordinator, ”said Pug, who left MtGox Legal in late March.

“After that, there was a long break, but more recently, they contacted me again and asked to help them develop a process to verify who are really victims of MtGox and a process to contact them.”

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According to a discussion of lenders in a closed forum, ZP Legal said it had returned about one million dollars to an unnamed WEX customer.

Zheleznikov refused to discuss the amount, but confirmed that his company worked with two people whose money was frozen on WEX.

“At that time, the police conducted preliminary investigative actions, but we initiated our own investigation and soon some people turned to us and offered to compensate for the losses of WEX users. We brought both sides together and soon the issue was resolved, ”Zheleznikov said, but he refused to name any of the participants in this transaction.

According to the document, ZP Legal told MtGox lenders that, thanks to “close cooperation with law enforcement agencies”, there are all prerequisites for the fact that “it will be possible to return 170,000 – 200,000 BTC.”

At the same time, ZP Legal admits that it does not have information about the identities of all the people involved in the theft – law enforcement agencies will have to find the perpetrators. Zheleznikov said that the amount is approximate, based on the number of lenders that ZP hopes to take on as customers.

Zheleznikov also emphasized that his clients can count on receiving not the bitcoins themselves, but their fiat value.

“I do not promise to return bitcoins. Only those funds that we can return through the court, ”said Zheleznikov.

“If your balance on MtGox at the time of closing the exchange was, say, 100 BTC, then to calculate your claim in a Russian court, you must convert it to hard currency based on the current exchange rate. For example, the current exchange rate is $ 10,000 for one bitcoin, which means that your demand will be $ 1 million in rubles, ”the document says.

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The potential problem with this approach is that crypto assets do not currently have legal status in Russia, as in many other jurisdictions, and there is no clear methodology for assessing the value of cryptocurrencies. Zheleznikov admits that his company will operate in the absence of established practice.

“We are entering a“ gray zone ”where no one has ever been, but we can convince the police to trust our estimates. We do not promise anything – we assume that we have certain legal skills, there are some existing laws that we will use, ”said Zheleznikov.

He acknowledged that there could be “years of legal struggle, work with the police and the formation of legal practice” ahead.

Despite the fact that Zheleznikov is little known in the Russian crypto space, he has a remarkable reputation as a lawyer in a number of high-profile Russian cases considered in recent years.

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