The lead analyst of cryptocurrency exchange EXMO Pavel Lerner was kidnapped in Ukraine in late 2017. Men in balaclavas pushed him inside a car and drove away in an unknown direction.
His whereabouts became known only three days later. It turned out he had to pay a ransom in bitcoins, and then the bandits let him go.
Still, Mr. Lerner never abandoned the crypto industry, albeit he had to flee Ukraine. Now he works as a quantum analyst at the project BitSonar.
Ever since the incident, Mr. Lerner never spoke with the media, so the community was full of rumors.
Recently the Russian-language publication ForkLog interviewed Mr. Lerner about the kidnapping and his current life.
Below are selected parts of the interview’s authorized translation:
ForkLog: Last winter, we were watching the news on your kidnapping closely. There were rumors you had been severely injured. Is it true?
Pavel Lerner: I wasn’t severely injured. The handcuffs left some fractures in my radial bones, though, and my wrists hurt sometimes. For a few months after the kidnapping, I had a hard time typing things so I couldn’t do my main job, which is coding and analyzing the market.
My biggest trauma is psychological. Such things aren’t normal. It’s good I had friends and relatives by my side. They helped me switch my mind off that story.
FL: How are you doing now?
Pavel Lerner: Much better. My wounds have healed. I just try to not remember the kidnapping and move on with my life.
FL: Did you make any conclusions from that traumatic experience?
Pavel Lerner: After the kidnapping, I started thinking much more about my personal safety. And I advise that you do, too. There were many articles in the media back then, so the investigation was run by some influential officials in Kyiv. When the kidnappers set me free, or, more accurately, threw me out of the car, I had to speak with the Ukrainian police almost all the time. The police acted professionally. The investigation is still underway, though I don’t think they’ll find the culprits. […]
The investigators showed me some darknet posts: find us millionaires, and we’ll pay you for info. There were around 20 names on the list. I wasn’t even the first one to be kidnapped.
Nobody’s safe from instances like that, especially in countries with low level of personal safety. Cryptocurrency millionaires often don’t even realize somebody may just take their money away. In our environment, people don’t kidnap one another. We don’t deal with racketeers so we don’t have bodyguards.
FL: So how much was the ransom in the end?
Pavel Lerner: It was 102 BTC. Back then it was around $2 million.
FL: Do you want them punished? Is there any news?
Pavel Lerner: I would like them to be brought to justice. As far as I know, the investigation is still going on, and there is a list of suspects. Somebody was even arrested, but I don’t think they’ll find the kingpin.
FL: What piece of advice could you give to cryptocurrency owners who wish for greater personal security?
Pavel Lerner: Please remember that anyone can be abducted and robbed. It’s just a question of price and time. Your objective is to make it clear to all criminals: it’s easier to rob twenty shops and drive away on a fire truck than to abduct you. […]
Hire good lawyers and don’t grudge money. If you have problems with criminals or authorities, they will act. They have way more useful connections than you, your friends, or your relatives. […]
Finally, have a tracking device on you. It can be a bracelet, a watch, or a ring. It will send your location to your family or your lawyers if anything happens. I saw rings with a secret panic button that my American colleagues wore. If someone takes it off and doesn’t push the button for a while, it will send a distress signal.
We use those methods at BitSonar while working with VIP investors. People with big deposits have to feel safe. That way they will be able to create something useful instead of doing broken field runs across town.
FL: Now that everything seems to be fine, you work at BitSonar. What’s that project about?
Pavel Lerner: The project is engaged in quantum analytics. Using software, we analyze data for big periods of time, find matches, build hypotheses and test them. If the hypothesis is proven right, we make it a quantum strategy. BitSonar doesn’t work exclusively with cryptocurrencies. It’s not just a project but a whole philosophy for the new world. For now, I cannot disclose much detail but I can say that BitSonar plans to solve problems with personal freedom, security, movements, and asset management.
FL: How did you start your work with BitSonar?
Pavel Lerner: BitSonar asked me to assess their algorithmic trading part. I liked their system, the team, and the partners. We have similar views on modern freedoms and the place cryptocurrencies have therein. I think that’s why they offered me to lead the algorithmic trading department.
FL: The company is incorporated in Estonia, its developers reside in Malaysia, and the CEO was never involved in cryptocurrency-related projects before. How does the team actually work?
Pavel Lerner: BitSonar created a community of professionals and investors that enhance their financial literacy and independence. The company’s structure reflects our philosophy. We got rid of borders imposed on the society. We chose Estonia due to their crypto-friendly legislation, however, cryptocurrencies know no boundaries. In this area, efficiency doesn’t depend on time spent in office or Monday meetings.
BitSonar does their best to expand freedoms of their employees. Analysts, financists, and a few coders are in Spain. The Malaysia-based developers who created the first BitSonar algorithms are always traveling. They need but a laptop and internet access to work. We also work with specialists from Russia, Ukraine, and the United States.
The project’s CEO Marius Ziubka is an incredibly energetic person and an amazing manager. He brings the employees scattered around the world together. Thanks to him, the developers, analysts, marketing specialists, and brand ambassadors work like a machine.
FL: Who would need the project’s services?
Pavel Lerner: First of all, it’s holders. Many of them bought bitcoin for 17 or 18 thousand dollars, so the crypto summer has not come to them yet. Such people can find no use to their bitcoins or Ethereum. BitSonar will increase the number of coins such people own with robots, neural networks, and quantum strategies. We work with highly liquid platforms like BitMEX, Binance, and Huobi.
Another category of potential customers is investors with high-risk appetite and users of trading bots. They have to know which strategies are efficient right here and right now. Many tools just don’t work on classical markets due to slow servers and regulation. However, they still find their use in crypto trading. For instance, you won’t be able to profit from arbitraging on classical markets but it is a steadily profitable strategy for cryptomarkets.
Most importantly, the world of cryptocurrencies is continuously growing and changing. Analysts, coders, and traders should join their efforts to develop hypotheses and gain profits.