Liechtenstein Bank in the Limelight over Money Channeled by a Darknet Millionaire in Alpha-Bay Investigation
A Liechtenstein Bank is in the limelight after investigation and evidence in public records of the District Court of Southern District of Californian indicated that Bank Alpinum allowed a dark web criminal to transfer of millions of francs.
The US Department of Justice launched a fight against dark web criminals two years ago, which was successful. In a well-coordinated joint investigation by Europol and six other different states, several illegal dark web trading forums, including the largest platform, Alpha Bay, were shut down.
The operation led to the arrest of dark web vendors including one Alexandre Cazes, a Canadian who had sought refuge in Thailand and thought himself as safe there. He was arrested in the Southeast Asian country as the Thai police confiscated most of his assets, including expensive vehicles and real-estate investments in Granada, Cyprus, and Antigua. At the time, he had over ten bank accounts in Thailand and several offshore accounts with the Grenadines, St. Vincent and Loyal Bank which had already stopped and rejected him as a customer. However, the Bank Alpinum in Vaduz continued to transact with him as a good customer.
In 2017, the US authorities shut down Alpha-Bay, the largest dark web market of the time, which had over 200,000 customers and 40,000 registered sellers globally on the illegal e-commerce site. The online marketplace contained over 250,000 illegal products including drugs, firearms and weapons, toxic chemicals and poisons, malware and hacking tools, child pornography, fake ID cards, and over 100,000 stolen credentials. Alexandre Cazes is said to have made his money not by selling anything in the market, but by introducing a fee of up to four percent for every complete trade on the online market. This made him $21 million at the age of 26, according to “Hannoversche Zeitung”. All the payments were made in cryptocurrencies.
According to the FBI, Alexandre Cazes registered a company in 2008 named EBX-Technologies which, according to the registration certificate, offered software development and web design. However, it was later discovered that the company was supposed to cover his illegal activities as well as serve as an explanation for his illegally acquired millions in the banks. He was arrested by the Thai police and extradited to the US in July 2017 where he took his own life a few days later.
The investigators had an easy time after they found his email address on the Alpha-Bay home page where he was an administrator. The Hotmail address in his name, date of birth, PayPal and a dozen bank accounts indicated his location.
Account in Liechtenstein
Cazes channeled more than $3 million through the Liechtenstein account, money which he claimed come from his real estate and bitcoin investments through his company called Zug Bitcoin Suisse AG. At the time, the dark web millionaire had applied for Cypriot citizenship in the Mediterranean island which legally allows “Citizenship by Investment Program”. According to a Zurich lawyer, H. Kälin Christian, Cazes’s assets are proceeds of crime from his illegal business on Alpha-Bay intertwined in money laundering.
The bank has since been confronted about the case but has not responded to the matter on the basis of banking secrecy. The Financial Market Authority (FMA), which compiles reports and does bank auditing, through the spokesman, the supervisory authority had this to say: “The FMA is not obligated to share or provide information in the past or in the future when performing its role in the supervisory mandate.” The bank had been in the headlines for several cases of fraud involving a manager who always hid embezzlements through internal resolutions. Meanwhile, a former deputy director of the Bank Alpinum has been jailed for five years. According to the prosecutors, he harmed at least 13 accounts owned by clients and violated the narcotics acts. Three other former employees were charged in court for fraud and money laundering.