Alexander Vinnik, a member of the defense group of the accused BTC-e operator has asked the head of Russia’s Orthodox Church for help. For his part in the notorious cryptocurrency exchange, the Russian national could be sentenced at more than 50 years imprisonment
Prisoner Swap for Americans in Russian Custody Is Vinnik’s Only Chance to Return Home, Lawyer Says
Frederic Belot, the French lawyer who has been representing Russian crypto entrepreneur and alleged money launderer Alexander Vinnik in courts for years, has written to Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia with a request to help for his client’s return to the homeland.
“The Vinnik case for the United States is not a legal, but a political trial,” the attorney said in the letter, quoted by the Russian Tass news agency. Belot warned that he could be imprisoned in the U.S. for more than 50 year and stressed:
Alexander can only be saved if he exchanges with Russians other than those held in Russia for American citizens.
Belot mentioned the Brittney Griner case and Paul Whelan’s. He isn’t the only one suggesting such a solution. In early September, the lawyer urged Moscow to include Vinnik in talks over a potential prisoner swap with Washington, highlighting Vinnik’s poor health after spending time in solitary confinement in France and a hunger strike in Greece.
In his address to Kirill, Frederic Belot pointed out that Vinnik is a “deeply believing Orthodox Christian” and added that “believing that the truth will prevail in the end helped him endure loneliness, separation from his family, the death of his wife, and the monstrous injustice on the part of the authorities of several countries.”
The French defense lawyer also turned attention to the violations of Vinnik’s rights after his detention in Greece and extradition to France, and then to the United States. The Russian national was taken into custody while on holiday in Thessaloniki, July 2017. He is charged with laundering $4 to $9 billion via the no longer-operational BTC-e.
He was handed over by the Greek authorities to France in December 2019. A year later, he was sentenced for five years of money laundering. Vinnik, who had already served his sentence in France, was immediately returned to Greece and transferred to the U.S.
Throughout these years, Russia has also sought his extradition on charges of embezzlement and “fraud in the field of computer information” for a total of over $12 million but Moscow’s requests were not granted. Vinnik, who is believed to have collaborated with Russian intelligence has already stated that he will appear in front of a Russian court.
Are you expecting Alexander Vinnik’s release as part of the prisoner swap agreement between Russia and America? Please share your views on this case below in the comment section.
Images CreditsShutterstock. Pixabay. Wiki Commons