Factbox: Who is Pavel Lerner and Why Was He Kidnapped?

The director of the EXMO exchange has been missing since December 26. But who is the prominent miner and crypto expert, and what may have caused the illegal move?

Pavel Lerner lists his current job as "Head of analytics and trading at EXMO". In Ukraine, he has been linked to the mining business, a thriving activity in the Eastern European country.

What is known about the kidnapping: Lerner stopped online communication in the middle of the day on December 26. Eyewitnesses reported Lerner was taken into a black Mercedes car by a group of masked and hooded people.

How EXMO was affected: The exchange stated that because Lerner was doing analytical tasks at EXMO and not overseeing the day-to-day business, the activity of the exchange would remain unaffected. 

The exchange announced: 

"The problem is real. We are doing everything possible to speed up the search for Pavel Lerner. The company would be grateful for any information to aid in the search for Pavel. Despite everything, the platform is working as usual. Pavel's activity in the company does not affect the access to cold storage or other user information."

Possible causes of kidnapping: Most believe the kidnapping of Lerner is certainly connected to his activities in mining and trading cryptocurrency. What is not known is whether the kidnapping is for a ransom, or to find ways to steal wallet private keys.

Pavel Lerner lived in Poland and Spain, and was in Kiev only occasionally. He was open about his connection to EXMO, one of the few exchanges offering a bridge to fiat currency, buying and selling crypto coins in Russian Rubles.

EXMO's original domain was blocked: Last year, the dot-com domain of the exchange was blocked. The current site at exmo.me is registered in the name of Lerner. EXMO is now locked in a court battle with Roskomnadzor, being one of the few crypto companies daring to oppose the state crackdowns on the Russian and Ukrainian crypto space.

Head of Major Ukranian Cryptocurrency Exchange Presumably Kidnapped

So far, there are only conjectures that the kidnapping of Lerner may be related to law enforcement and a crackdown on crypto exchanges. The worldwide community still knows little about the case, with very limited information on social media.