Bulgarian prosecutors have indicted four people less than 48 hours after raiding the Bulgarian office of cryptocurrency lender Nexo in Sofia. Individuals have been accused of unlicensed banking activities, tax crimes, money laundering, and computer fraud in a criminal investigation surrounding the crypto firm. Head of the national investigative service, Borislav Sarafov, unveiled it at a news conference on Friday.
The country’s national police agency has reportedly seized several assets, including cash, computers, and an undisclosed cryptocurrency.
The investigators’ office has questioned more than 20 people, and the interrogation is still ongoing.
According to Chief Prosecutor’s spokesperson Siaka Mileva, the four charged have been active since 2018 and have operated in the Cayman Islands, Bulgaria, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.
The two have been arrested and could be released on a bail package of 1 million levs ($553,801.85) each. A search warrant was issued for the remaining two, Mileva said. The defendants are not allowed to leave the country.
It is unclear which people and in what position they were at Nexo when they were arrested.
Prosecutors said Thursday that they planned an investigation into Nexo’s alleged illegal activities. Authorities raided the lender’s offices and more than 15 other locations in the capital, Sofia. A group of more than 300 police officers, investigators, and foreign agents was involved in the raid.
During a briefing on the case, Sarafov said:
“In the case yesterday, 17 sites – offices and residential homes – were searched with prior permission of the court.”
Sarafov said, “This is an unprecedented investigation.” He added that Bulgaria is leading the investigation, which started several months ago in cooperation with the British, US, and other counterparts.
Nexo stressed that it is fully cooperating with the investigation of the relevant regulations and authorities.
A frontend developer at Nexo Sofia office, Georgi Naydenov, said on Linkedin:
“I thank the Bulgarian Prosecutor’s Office for trying, of course, in the most incompetent and pathetic way to take away the work of over 600 people in Nexo including me.”
Nexo To Sue Bulgaria For Illegal Office Raid
Founded in 2018, Nexo offers crypto trading, interest-earning products, staking, debit card services, and loans to more than 5 million users. The company has offices in Bulgaria, the UK, and Switzerland but does not offer its services to Bulgarians due to issues with local authorities. It has approximately 600 employees in Sofia.
Sarafov said the investigation began in September 2022. The State Agency for National Security and prosecution noted that the platform conducted 4 million cryptocurrency transactions worth $94 billion from 660,000 addresses in the past five years.
Evidence suggests that some transactions involved a person known to finance “terrorist” activities, identified by Israeli Intelligence. Additionally, most transactions were made in violation of US and EU sanctions against Russia.
On January 12, an investigative team of more than 300 people searched the company’s office in Sofia.
Nexo said on Friday that the raid on its offices was a shameful act. A search warrant was not immediately issued, and officers did not provide identification. The company reportedly intends to sue the authorities, seeking compensation for the damage caused by the sudden police intervention.