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Kidnappers in Ukraine have released an employee at a United Kingdom-registered cryptocurrency exchange after getting ultimately more than $1 million in bitcoins as ransom, an adviser to the Ukrainian interior minister told Reuters on Friday.
Pavel Lerner, a respected analyst and blockchain expert, was abducted by unknown masked people on December 26, according to a statement by his company, EXMO Finance, on its website.
“This is the first such case in Ukraine linked to bitcoins,” Anton Gerashchenko, an adviser to Interior Minister Arsen Avakov, said in a text message.
It was unclear who paid the ransom. Lerner’s work at EXMO did not involve usage of the financial resources of its users, the company said, adding that the system was operating normally
. “At the moment, he is safe, and there was no physical harm inflicted on him,” the statement said. “Nevertheless, Pavel is currently in a state of major stress, therefore, he will not provide any official comments in the coming days.”
News of the release came as bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies rebounded after two times of deficits partly related to regulators toughening rules on digital currencies in order to curb excessive speculation. Many digital currencies surged in value this full year.
Strana.ua, a local information website, had earlier reported that 6 gun-toting men in dark clothing and balaclavas had snatched Lerner and pushed him into a vehicle with stolen number plates.