Head of Major Ukranian Cryptocurrency Exchange Presumably Kidnapped

Pavel Lerner, head of EXMO cryptocurrency exchange, has been kidnapped in Kiev.

Pavel Lerner, IT specialist and director of one of the country's leading cryptocurrency exchanges, EXMO, has been kidnapped on December 26, Ukranian local news outlets reported. According to witnesses, Lerner was taken away in a black Mercedes vehicle, surrounded by a group of masked and hooded people.

The programmer was dragged into a Mercedes-Benz Vito car by unknown persons in dark clothes and balaclavas, and taken away in an unknown direction," writes the Strana.ua website.

The news has been corroborated by the crypto community: 

EXMO, although linked to Ukraine, has been established in the UK. Lerner also has relations to other businesses based on blockchain technologies.

The exchange chief was kidnapped in the center of Kiev, in as street known formerly as Moscow Prospect, but renamed to Stepan Bandera Prospect after the Maidan events of 2013. 

EXMO is a sizable exchange with upward of $93 million turnover in 24 hours. The exchange is a route for exchanging Russian Rubles into Bitcoin. The exchange also offers a selection of anonymous coins such as ZCash and Monero, and also hosts Russian project KickICO and KickCoin, a digital asset linked to local fundraising efforts.

An investigation is underway for the disappearance of Lerner, the authorities giving no further details, but strongly suspecting a kidnapping. There are few comments on the cause of the kidnapping, but as cryptocurrencies are becoming more valuable and more money is at stake, conjectures are made that this is caused by the increased public image of Bitcoin.