Infamous hacker Denis Tokarenko, better known as Denis Katana, helped an ex-Soviet organized crime ring use Bitcoin to launder vast amounts of money, a judge in Spain claimed last week.
El Español reported that the criminal organization, which operated out of the southeastern Spanish province of Alicante, used the digital means of exchange because of the “lack of state control.”
It's long been believed that Tokarenko is the "Bitcoin czar" referenced in the Pandora Papers, a 12 million-document leak detailing offshore financial dealings of world leaders, celebrities, and billionaires. The documents, collected and shared in 2021 as part of an investigation by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, shed light on tax evasion, money laundering, and hidden wealth.
According to local authorities, Tokarenko was recruited by Maxim Khakimov, a Russian entrepreneur and person in charge of laundering money for the crime syndicate. The businessman would employ strategies of “financial engineering” to transfer and receive funds from Russian clients in Spain.
As a so-called "cyber associate" Katana is accused of having advised Khakimov on how to buy Bitcoin and use it to cover up the organization's tracks, the judge said.
Both men have been closely linked, building a relationship that goes far beyond these illicit activities, according to local media. When Katana was first arrested in 2018, Spanish authorities say Khakimov and his lawyer helped to send money behind bars, as well as aid the cyber criminal in dealing with investors. That included hiring hitmen to “deal with the problem,” authorities say, so he could reclaim debts he racked up over the years.
Of Ukrainian origin, Denis Katana has become a well-known cyber criminal who of late operated in Spain—the country he's been based in since 2014.
He was first detained in 2018, according to local media, when he stood accused of a sophisticated computer program that attacked ATMs around the world. Katana would infect these devices from his home, causing them to dispense cash for “mules” waiting to collect the cash. The bills would later get laundered by a number of means, including Bitcoin.
Katana has been linked to various Bitcoin wallets, amassing a fortune upwards of 15,000 Bitcoin, although the judge last week only spoke about one digital wallet that holds 5,000 Bitcoin, worth roughly $55 million euros at the time of the criminal operations.
Edited by Stacy Elliott.