One of the operators of BTC-e cryptocurrency exchange and leading suspect in multi-billion money laundering scandal, Alexander Vinnik, is seeking to be extradited to Russia from Greece rather than to the United States or France.
According to Greek publication Kathimerini, Vinnik filed an appeal with a court in the port city of Piraeus seeking to be released or extradited to his home country. The Russian national who has been on a hunger strike for three months cited humanitarian reasons in his plea.
Per his lawyers Vinnik’s life is endangered. Besides claiming that the charges he is facing are unfounded, his lawyers also argue that he has been held for longer than the law allows. Vinnik was arrested nearly two years ago in Greece while on vacation.
This was at the behest of U.S. law enforcement agencies including Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN):
FinCEN acted in coordination with law enforcement’s seizure of BTC-e and Vinnik’s arrest. The Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation Division, Federal Bureau of Investigation, United States Secret Service, and Homeland Security Investigations conducted the criminal investigation.
Since his arrest, Vinnik has pleaded innocence saying his only crime was working for BTC-e as previously reported by CCN.
As one of BTC-e’s alleged operators, Vinnik is believed to have been involved in the laundering of Mt. Gox’s stolen funds. Per FinCEN, BTC-e laundered bitcoins worth over $120 million that were linked to the hacking of the now-defunct exchange:
BTC-e also processed transactions involving funds stolen between 2011 and 2014 from one of the world’s largest bitcoin exchanges, Mt. Gox. BTC-e processed over 300,000 bitcoin in transactions traceable to the theft.
Vinnik is not alone in his fight to be extradited to Russia though. Earlier this month Russia’s Commissioner for Human Rights, Tatyana Nikolayevna Moskalkova, sought the assistance of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, in getting him extradited to Russia from Greece, according to TASS.
Late last month Moskalkova had also written Michalis Kalogirou, Greek’s Minister of Justice, Transparency and Human Rights, seeking the same.
Then Moskalkova said that Vinnik had lost around 30% of his weight and was ‘at death’s door’. Additionally, his wife who was suffering from brain cancer was in a serious state. Moskalkova warned that Vinnik’s two underage children could consequently become orphaned:
I appeal to you Mister Minister with a request to extradite to the Russian Federation for further investigation Russian national Alexander Vinnik, who is facing criminal charges in Russia and whose family and health condition is grave.
Vinnik’s preference for extradition to Russia goes beyond familial matters though. While in the U.S. he was indicted on 21 counts, in Russia he is only wanted on less serious fraud charges amounting to around 10,000 euros, per Reuters.
So far Greek courts have made conflicting rulings regarding Vinnik’s extradition. In October 2017 one court approved Vinnik’s extradition to Russia. Another court, however, gave the go-ahead for his extradition to the U.S. To complicate matters further, the Greek Supreme Court ruled that he should be extradited to France last year in December. According to TASS, the final decision is likely to be made by Greek politicians.
Last modified (UTC): March 22, 2019 10:06 AM