As part of an ongoing criminal case that has attracted international attention, a Greek court today ordered the extradition of Russian cybercrime suspect and ex-Bitcoin BTC-e platform operator Alexander Vinnik to France.
Delivery to France?
Vinnik was arrested in Greece last year after the US issued an international arrest warrant. He was the operator of the BTC-e platform. According to authorities, he used his digital currencies to circumvent the law, launder money and cheat people.
His lawyer Ilias Spyrliadi appealed the Greek extradition decision. Vinnik pleaded innocent, saying he had done nothing illegal. He will remain in prison until a final decision on this matter, the Tampa Bay Times said.
Now the French authorities have contacted us. They accuse Vinnik of cybercrime, money laundering, membership of a criminal organization and blackmail. He is said to have laundered about $155 million using 20,643 bitcoin. He is also accused of having been involved in Mt. Gox – Hack. The extradition request comes as a surprise, as the Greek Supreme Court had previously approved extradition to the USA.
But the Russian authorities also applied for extradition to face up to cyber fraud. This case has turned into a kind of tug-of-war between Russia, France and the United States, all competing to be indicted in their countries.
His lawyer Spyrliadis said that a European arrest warrant would generally take precedence over others, putting France first in the prosecution of Vinnik. Spyrliadis added that in practice it is up to the Greek Minister of Justice to decide where he will land.
Alexander Vinnik’s arrest
In July 2017, Vinnik was arrested in Greece when the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) announced a $110 million fine against BTC-e for violating anti-money laundering laws (AML) – the charge included a $12 million fine. Since then, the USA and Russia have been competing for his extradition.
In May of this year, after the US extradition request had stalled, an assassination attempt on Vinnik during his detention was thwarted by the Greek law enforcement agency. It is believed that the attack was committed by a person or organization who did not want him to testify in Russia.
Vinnik also applied for asylum, which must be processed first before the Greek courts can take a final decision on extradition. Although his application was rejected, he had also appealed this decision.