A Russian cryptocurrency billionaire has died in a helicopter crash near Monaco after a passenger canceled at the last minute. Businessman Vyacheslav Taran, 53, is the latest cryptocurrency businessman to have died under mysterious circumstances in the past few weeks. Taran was also said to have links to Moscow's foreign intelligence.
His helicopter crashed near the village of Eze, after taking off from Lausanne, Switzerland. According to reports, the helicopter Taran was traveling in, crashed in good weather, which has further raised suspicion about his death. The incident reportedly happened on Friday but was reported only on Tuesday by the authorities.
Taran, the co-founder of trading and investing platform Libertex and Forex Club, was traveling in a single-engined H130 helicopter, from Lausanne with an experienced pilot when it crashed at around 1 pm on November 25.
According to the Monaco Daily News, the Monacair-operated single-engine light helicopter Eurocopter EC130 (H130) crashed close to Monaco at around 1 p.m. on November 25.
A 35-year-old French pilot was also killed in the accident that occurred in the Alpes-Maritimes, in the southeast of France. Another passenger was expected to be on board. However, he mysteriously canceled just before departure.
The deputy public prosecutor of Nice, who visited the scene, has said the fault of a third party could not be ruled out.
The incident happened close to the city of Villefranche-sur-Mer, according to the Russian embassy in France. It has been alleged that Taran also had connections to Russian foreign intelligence.
Taran's death is currently shrouded in mystery because the crash that killed Taran took place in clear, pleasant weather and after another passenger reportedly abruptly canceled.
Taran - a highly successful offshore specialist originally from Vladivostok - was married to Russian wife Olga, founder of Hello Monaco media, and the couple had three children.
Shrouded in Mystery
Ukrainian news source UNIAN described Taran as a "billionaire crypto businessman with likely ties to the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service" the without providing any supporting documentation. According to the report, he was involved in "laundering Russian funds through a system of cryptocurrency operations" and was connected to the SVR foreign spy agency.
Tributes have been pouring in Monaco since Taran's death. "It is with great sadness that Libertex Group confirms the death of its co-founder and chairman of board of directors, Vyacheslav Taran, after a helicopter crash that took place en route to Monaco on Friday, 25 November 2022," read a statement from Taran's company.
"The board of directors of Libertex Group and company employees extend their most heartfelt condolences and sympathy to the Taran family."
The government of Monaco said in a statement that it "shares the pain caused by this tragedy" and offered condolences to the victims' families. French officials have started an inquiry following the collision.
Taran is the third cryptocurrency businessman to die unexpectedly in recent weeks.
Last week, Tiantian Kullander, 30, passed away "in his sleep," while Nikolai Mushegian, 29, another cryptocurrency millionaire, drowned on a beach in Puerto Rico after tweeting that he thought the CIA and Mossad were going to kill him.
However, Taran's death appears to be more mysterious as a number of Russian businessmen and oligarchs have died under mysterious circumstances since the beginning of Russia-Ukraine war.
Earlier this month, Viktor Cherkesov, 72, a close KGB spy and mentor of Vladimir Putin, who was demoted after publicly criticizing the Kremlin leader died from an mysterious "serious disease."
Ivan Pechorin, 39, the director of the Far East and Arctic Development Corporation, also died recently. He reportedly "went overboard" from his yacht in September.
The Russian Railways PR manager Pavel Pchelnikov, 52, was also found shot dead in his Moscow apartment that same month, and senior Gazprom executive Alexander Tyulakov, 61, was found hanging at his home in Moscow.
With Taran's death, at least five cryptocurrency billionaires have died suddenly since 2018, occasionally giving rise to wild and unfounded conspiracy theories.
Gerald Cotten and Matthew Mellon, the other two, passed away without disclosing the keys to crypto wallets valued at hundreds of millions of dollars. The funds are still inaccessible.
The enigmatic and contentious nature of Cotten's death even led to a Netflix documentary exploring the possibility that it was all staged.