Alleged BTC-e Operator Alexander Vinnik in US Custody After Immediate Extradition From Greece – Bitcoin News

Alexander Vinnik is a Russian IT specialist who was accused of operating the crypto trading platform BTC-e. This week, Greek authorities proceeded with the extradition, after his return from France, despite Vinnik’s defense protesting the move and calling the case a “judicial, diplomatic and humanitarian scandal.”

Vinnik Appears in San Francisco Federal Court, to Fail Money Laundering.

Alexander Vinnik was arrested in Greece and extradited to the United States. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, Vinnik has been charged in California’s Northern District and appeared before a federal court in San Francisco on Friday. Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite, Jr. of the department’s Criminal Division, was quoted as stating:

Alexander Vinnik from Russia was arrested yesterday, after five years of legal proceedings. Vinnik is being held responsible for BTC-e which ran a criminal cryptocurrency trading platform that laundered criminal proceeds totaling more than $4Billion.

Vinnik, 42 years old was taken into custody while on holiday in Thessaloniki, Greece in 2017 under a U.S. warrant. In January 2017, he was charged in an American superseding 21-count indictment. The United States requested that Greece extradite him, but Greece sent him to France first in December 2019 under an EU arrest warrant.

French courts sentenced the Russian crypto-entrepreneur to five year imprisonment for money laundering. His pre-trial detention was taken into consideration. The French court also charged him with identity theft, and extortion. U.S. authorities withdrew an application to obtain the Russian directly through France in July. It was evident that this attempt to accelerate his transfer through Greece (which had previously approved his extradition to America) was a deliberate effort to slow down his release.

According to the U.S. indictment, the now-defunct BTC-e was a “significant cybercrime and online money laundering entity that allowed its users to trade in bitcoin with high levels of anonymity and developed a customer base heavily reliant on criminal activity.” It alleges the exchange facilitated global cybercrime transactions, receiving proceeds from a wide range of crimes, such as the Mt Gox hack, ransomware scams, and even drug trade.

Vinnik and BTC-e were also charged with operating an unlicensed U.S. money service company and conspiracy to commit money laundering. Russians are also being charged with 17 charges of money laundering as well as two counts for engaging in illegal monetary transactions. His platform, according to the Justice Department had neither a program for anti-money laundering or know-yourcustomer verification as required under federal law.

Russia, Lawyer Brand Vinnik’s US Extradition ‘Abduction’ and ‘Violent Disappearance’

Speaking to the Russian news agency Tass, Vinnik’s French lawyer Frederic Belot confirmed his defendant had been handed over to US custody, upon his return from France under the decision by the Investigation Chamber of the Paris Court of Appeals from Thursday morning. “He was immediately transferred to another plane that flew to the United States. The plane landed in Boston and then flew to San Francisco,” Belot explained.

“Alexander Vinnik, who should be free based on three decisions by the French justice, was transferred yesterday as a prisoner to Greece and there he was literally ‘loaded’ on a private plane to the USA, without being allowed, as he requested and while seeking asylum, to have access to an interpreter, to me as his lawyer,” Zoe Konstantopoulou, who has been representing him in Greece and France, said quoted by the Greek newspaper Ethnos.

Alleged BTC-e Operator Alexander Vinnik in US Custody After Immediate Extradition From Greece

Konstantopoulou recently shared her fears that the Russian will be held by the U.S. as a “hostage” of the ongoing military conflict in NATO-supported Ukraine, where Moscow is waging a full-scale war since late February, presented as a “special military operation” in defense of the Russian-speaking population. Western governments have chosen to ignore Russia’s own requests for Vinnik’s extradition.

He has repeatedly denied all allegations by the U.S. and claimed his innocence. In Russia he is charged with embezzlement of more than 600,000 rubles (close to $10,000) and “fraud in the field of computer information” for 750 million rubles ($12.3 million).

While the U.S. Justice Department thanked the Greek government and justice ministry “for all their efforts in securing the defendant’s transfer to the United States,” the spokesperson of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs Maria Zakharova stated that Moscow is “outraged by the unfriendly actions of the Greek authorities” and accused Washington of conducting a “real hunt for Russian citizens,” calling Vinnik’s hasty extradition an “abduction.” While not mentioned in the DOJ announcement, the owner of BTC-e is suspected of having collaborated with Russian intelligence, too.

In her comments, Zoe Konstantopoulou described the case as a multi-year “judicial, diplomatic, intergovernmental scandal,” while referring to his extradition as a “violent disappearance from Greek territory” which “constitutes a Mafia method and a criminal act… a serious violation of international law and Greek legislation,” committed with the participation of two foreign states. Vinnik applied for asylum in Greece, and the defense team tried to secure his release from jail on humanitarian grounds. He and his wife were killed in 2020. Their two children are now living with their grandparents.

In this story, tags
Alexander Vinnik, Arrest. Asylum, BTC-e. Charges. Crypto, Cryptocurrencies. Cryptocurrencies. Cryptocurrency. Exchange. Extradition. France. France. Greece. Greek. Money Laundering. Mt Gox. Operator. Request. Russian sentence. Trial. Ukraine. Vinnik. War

What are your expectations about Alexander Vinnik’s trial in the United States? Leave a comment below.

Lubomir Tatsev

Lubomir Tassev is a journalist from tech-savvy Eastern Europe who likes Hitchens’s quote: “Being a writer is what I am, rather than what I do.” Besides crypto, blockchain and fintech, international politics and economics are two other sources of inspiration.

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