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Bitcoin Price Spikes to Nearly $9K on Little-Known Crypto Exchange

For a cryptocurrency exchange that has seen its bitcoin price trade at a market premium since launch, the spike to nearly $9,000 on the WEX exchange on Wednesday was an outlier.

Some background: in July of last year, U.S. and international law enforcement took aim at BTC-e, the long-running – and long-mysterious – cryptocurrency exchange. In a dramatic turn, a Russian national and one of BTC-e's suspected employees was arrested and charged with laundering billions of dollars while American regulators moved to slap the exchange with a massive $110 million fine.

In the months since, BTC-e has returned under the WEX banner while Alexander Vinnik has been the subject of a legal tug-of-war between Russia, the U.S. and, now, France, each of which is seeking to extradite him. Vinnik has that he is innocent of the charges levied against him.

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Yet Wednesday's move is a curious one, with the price of bitcoin (against the U.S. dollar) on WEX climbing to $8,999, as shown in the graph below.

By contrast, CoinDesk's Bitcoin Price Index (BPI) hasn't climbed above $6,396 since the start of trading on July 11.

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The sharp increase started around 16:00 (UTC) from a comparatively high price point of about $7,800. To put things in perspective, Coinbase, a competing US-based crypto exchange, featured bitcoin prices throughout the entirety of the day between the range of $6,200 and $6,400.

At press time, the cryptocurrency is trading at roughly $8,103, according to WEX figures.

So what gives?

As might be expected, the unexpected surge stoked speculation that WEX is either insolvent, suffering banking problems or gearing up for a calculated exit. BTC-e's long-mysterious reputation and links to the now-defunct dark market Silk Road may arguably have provided fuel for such allegations.

The move also comes a day before WEX will undergo a planned maintenance period scheduled to last for 2 hours, according to a post on Twitter from July 9.

For its part, the exchange hasn't commented on its public-facing channels about the price spike, and a message sent to WEX's official account on Twitter wasn't returned by press time.

Bitcoin image via Shutterstock

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