Alleged BTC-e Operator Alexander Vinnik Seeks Extradition to Russia
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Alleged BTC-e exchange operator Alexander Vinnik, who is accused of laundering billions of dollars, is officially seeking extradition to Russia.
According to a report from local news source e-Kathimerini on Thursday, Vinnik, a Russian national, has filed an appeal in a Piraeus city court for release or extradition to his home nation for humanitarian reasons.
Vinnik was arrested in Greece back in July 2017, after police alleged that he had laundered at least $4 billion in cash through a bitcoin platform since 2011. He was detained for money laundering, conspiracy and transacting in cash obtained through illegal means.
Since his arrest, Vinnik’s extradition has been sought by the governments of the U.S., Russia and, more recently, France.
To date, Vinnik has maintained that he is innocent of all charges. He once said: “I do not consider myself guilty … The fact that I worked for BTC-e and did my job, and it’s not justifiable to accuse me of it.”
Vinnik has been on a hunger strike for 90 days, according to the report from e-Kathimerini, and was transported to the court by ambulance.
Vinnik’s lawyers say his life is “at risk” and maintain that the charges against him are “unfounded,” e-Kathimerini writes. They have also criticized the Greek justice system for detaining him for “more than the maximum 18 months permitted for pre-trial detention.”
The U.S. Department of Justice levied a $110 million fine against BTC-e and a $12 million penalty against Vinnik back in July 2017. If convicted in the U.S., Vinnik could face up to 55 years in prison.
Earlier this month, WEX, the apparent successor to the shuttered BTC-e exchange, was again tied to illicit funds gained through ransomware attacks. “Big Four” consulting firm PwC said that two Iranians who have created the SamSam ransomware variant are tied to WEX and may have used it to launder millions in illegal earnings.