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Court Approves Alleged Bitcoin Money Launder's Extradition to France

A Russian national accused of laundering billions of dollars on the now-defunct crypto exchange BTC-e could soon be extradited to France following a court decision.

Since his arrest last summer, Alexander Vinnik has been at the center of a legal tug-of-war between the governments of Russia, the U.S. and, more recently, France, all of which are seeking to extradite him.

Vinnik, who has maintained no wrongdoing from all charges, had been awaiting a decision from Greek authorities on which country he would ultimately be sent to, though in the past he had expressed a preference for extradition to Russia.

According to the Associated Press, the Greek courts decided Friday that Vinnik would be sent to France in light of accusations of his involvement in cyber attacks against some 100 French nationals. The decision drew swift criticism from the Russian government in wake of the expulsion of two Russian diplomats from Greece just a day prior related to tensions over the entry of Macedonia into the NATO military alliance.

Ilias Spyrliadis, Vinnik’s defense attorney, was reported by the Washington Post as saying that Vinnik will appeal the decision and continue to maintain his innocence from all criminal charges.

Indeed, this is not the first appeal Vinnik has made before Greek authorities, pushing back on the green light offered last December that would have effectively extradited Vinnik to the U.S.

The U.S. government claims Vinnik was the “operator” of BTC-e and utilized the platform to launder some $4 billion over the course of six years. Levying a $110 million fine against the exchange and a $12 million penalty against the Russian national himself, Vinnik would face up to 55 years in prison if convicted in the U.S.

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France Wants to Extradite Alleged Bitcoin Money Launderer

France has joined Russia and the United States in seeking to extradite an accused money launderer connected to the BTC-e cryptocurrency exchange.

As previously reported by CoinDesk, Alexander Vinnik has been at the center of an international dispute ever since he was indicted by U.S. officials.

At the time, the US government also slapped BTC-e with an $1110 million fine, a move that came hours after reports of Vinnik’s arrest first emerged. And despite going offline following the arrest and fine announcements, BTC-e ultimately re-emerged under the name WEX.

Since then, Russia and American officials have wrangled in the Grecian court system in an effort to extradite him to their respective countries. All the while, Vinnik has maintained his innocence, though a court ruled in December that he could be extradited to the US.

According to the Associated Press, France is seeking to intervene as a final determination on Vinnik’s future is made. France’s government wants to put Vinnik on trial for a string of charges including “cybercrime, money laundering, and membership in a criminal organization and extortion”, sources told the news service.

As such, the French request adds a new wrinkle to the dispute, and according to the AP, Vinnik is fighting the new extradition request.

“A legal issue that will require our attention is which (extradition request) will have priority, as they are based on two international arrest warrants and one European arrest warrant,” Ilias Spyrliadis, Vinnik’s lawyer, was quoted as saying.

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Court Approves U.S. Extradition for Alleged BTC-e Operator

A Greek court has given the green light for the extradition of alleged bitcoin money launderer Alexander Vinnik to the U.S.

Said to be the former operator of defunct bitcoin exchange BTC-e, Vinnik is wanted by authorities in both Russia and the U.S. on different charges. As previously reported by CoinDesk, Vinnik had appealed to the court to be extradited to his native Russia where he faces lesser fraud charges. He has also denied his role as the operator of BTC-e, claiming he had merely worked as a technician at the exchange.

According to Reuters, the Greek supreme court yesterday rejected his appeal that he be returned to Russia. It is now up to the Greek justice minister to make the final decision on the matter, according to the news source.

Russia has previously criticized the decision to comply with the U.S.’s request for extradition. The county’s Ministry for Foreign Affairs said at the time that it “noted with regret” that the court had opted not to return Vinnik to Russia.

Vinnik was arrested in Greece in late July, accused of laundering billions of dollars in bitcoin through BTC-e.

In July, international law enforcement officials moved to shutter the BTC-e exchange, with U.S. prosecutors later unveiling a number of charges against both BTC-e and Vinnik, while a $110 million fine was handed down from the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN).

By September, the platform had gone back online, and claimed that it would refund users who lost money in the raids. Later that month, its operators launched a new exchange platform called WEX.

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Alleged Bitcoin Launderer Faces Extradition Hearing Next Month

An alleged money laundered tied to the BTC-e bitcoin exchange and wanted by both Russia and the U.S. will attend an extradition hearing next month, according to new reports.

The Dec. 6 hearing, according to The Associated Press, represents a delay intended to allow for two witnesses to attend, according to a lawyer for Alexander Vinnik. Vinnik was arrested in July and accused of laundering billions of dollars through BTC-e, which was also targeted by law enforcement officials.

The delay represents the latest twist in a story that sparked global headlines in the wake of Vinnik’s arrest. U.S. prosecutors had filed charges against both Vinnik and BTC-e, with the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) handing down a $110 million fine against the cryptocurrency exchange.

Vinnik has since remained in Greece after local authorities acted on a U.S. arrest warrant. And while a Greek court initially backed the request to extradite him to face charges in the U.S., Vinnik is seeking to be sent to Russia instead. As a result, both governments are pushing for their respective extradition requests to be granted, putting the decision in the hands of the Greek Supreme Court, as well as the Greek Justice Department.

In statements, Vinnik has declared his innocence in regards to the U.S. charges, though he acknowledged that he worked for BTC-e. BTC-e – which has since relaunched after having its domain seized by law enforcement – has denied any involvement with Vinnik.

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Russia Blasts Decision to Extradite Alleged Bitcoin Money Launderer

Russia’s foreign ministry has sharply criticized a Greek court’s decision to extradite Alexander Vinnik to the US for his alleged role in laundering funds through the BTC-e bitcoin exchange.

In a statement, the Ministry for Foreign Affairs said today that they “noted with regret” that the court opted to comply with the US’s extradition request for Vinnik, who was arrested in Greece in late July and was accused of laundering billions of dollars in bitcoin through the exchange.

Both Vinnik and BTC-e were later charged by US prosecutors, with FinCEN handing down a $110 million fine after the sealed indictment was unveiled.

Since then, Vinnik has remained in Greece pending the outcome of the extradition process. During that time the Russian government moved to extradite Vinnik on unrelated charges, a move that was later endorsed by Vinnik himself in a statement to Russia Today.

To date, Vinnik has maintained that he is innocent of the charges, though he claims to have worked for BTC-e in the past. BTC-e, for its part, has denied Vinnik’s involvement and, since the exchange’s site domain was seized by US agents, has moved to establish a new cryptocurrency exchange.

But this week’s ruling by a Greek judge was met with dismay by the Russian foreign ministry, which in a statement urged the court to reconsider the decision.

The Russian government said:

“We deem the verdict unjust and a violation of international law. A request from the Russian Prosecutor General’s Office on extraditing Mr Vinnik to Russia was submitted to the Greek authorities. Based on legal precedent, the Russian request should take priority as Mr Vinnik is a citizen of Russia.”

The statement notably makes no mention of BTC-e or the specific crimes for which Vinnik has been accused. That said, it does make note that Vinnik’s legal team will appeal the decision, potentially leaving it up to the Greek Justice Ministry to decide on where the Russian national will be sent.

The foreign ministry also expressed hope that Vinnik will ultimately be extradited to Russia.

“We hope the Greek authorities will consider the Russian Prosecutor General’s Office request, and Russia’s reasoning, and act in strict compliance with international law,” the ministry said.

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Greek Court Backs Extradition of Alleged Bitcoin Exchange Operator to US

A Greek court has backed a request that the alleged former operator of bitcoin exchange BTC-e should be extradited to the U.S. for trial.

The accused, Alexander Vinnik, is wanted in U.S. for allegedly operating the exchange without a license, and using it as a platform to launder money to the tune of $4 billion.

Soon after today’s ruling, lawyers of the accused reportedly move to appeal the decision.

According to Associated Press, Vinnik’s lawyer, Alexandros Lykourezos, said: “We have taken immediate action and appealed the ruling and the case will be examined by the criminal division of the Supreme Court.”

Speaking at his hearing today, Vinnik denied his role as the operator of BTC-e, claiming he had merely worked as a technician for the platform.

The News Tribune reports that Vinnik told the court:

“I have nothing to do with what I am accused of.”

The accused also claimed that the laptop seized during his arrest was in no way related to his employment, adding that it contained only children’s cartoons for his family.

Vinnik was arrested in July while on holiday in Greece soon after the sudden closure of the BTC-e exchange by authorities.

The Russian is also wanted for extradition to his home country in connection with the same crimes.

Greek courts have yet to make a formal decision on the request, although Vinnik’s lawyers reportedly said in today’s appeal that they had no plans to contest extradition to Russia.

Wife of the accused Alexandra Vinnik previously told RT she thought U.S. extradition would be “weird,” as the accused had neither lived nor worked in the country.

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Alleged Bitcoin Money Launderer Has First Extradition Hearing

Alleged former BTC-e employee Alexander Vinnik appeared in a Greek court on Friday for the first of what could be several hearings to determine where he will ultimately stand trial.

Arrested in July by authorities on behalf of the U.S. government, Vinnik was charged with money laundering, computer hacking, fraud and drug trafficking alongside his former employer, bitcoin exchange BTC-e. However, the trial is perhaps best seen as the first step in a larger tug-of-war that will find the Greek justice minister deciding where a judge will hear the case.

At issue will likely be the now-murky details of Vinnik’s role at the company. For example, while BTC-e originally claimed it had no association with Vinnik, in his first interview after being arrested, he admitted he worked for the exchange. The U.S. government has also taken a different stance on his involvement, framing him as the “operator” of BTC-e.

Further complicating matters, is that Vinnik, a Russian national, is also wanted for fraud charges in his home country. According to Russia Today, he has agreed to be extradited to Russia, though no hearing date on that matter has yet been set.

Both countries claim Vinnik laundered some $4 billion through BTC-e over the course of six years. One of the oldest bitcoin exchanges, BTC-e was shut down after being raided by U.S. authorities in July.

However, it appears at least some of its technology is operational. On September 15, its Twitter page announced its replacement with a new exchange called Wex.

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Alleged BTC-e Operator Claims Innocence in New Interview

In his first interview since his arrest, alleged BTC-e operator Alexander Vinnik has said he is innocent of charges brought against him by the U.S. government.

Arrested in Greece in July following an investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice, the Russian native is currently being held there on charges of money laundering and operating an “unlicensed monetary service” until he can be extradited to the U.S. Vinnik refused to allow himself to be voluntarily extradited.

In the interview with Russia Today, Vinnik 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. I found out about the charge about a month after I was taken into custody. This was told to me by my Russian lawyer.”

BTC-e was raided by U.S. officials and shut down on July 25, but has since come back online and pledged to return user funds. In a statement at the time, the group claimed Vinnik was never in charge of the exchange.

Other statements hinted at what could become one of the more notable trials to emerge from the blockchain technology sector.

For example, Vinnik’s wife Alexandra told Russia Today that she believes he is being framed by the U.S. because they want to use his “intellect.” Further, she said it was “weird” that Vinnik would be tried in the U.S. given that he did not work or live there.

Vinnik agreed, telling the news source that he does not understand how the U.S. government can judge a Russian citizen.

The statements in this article were translated from Russian.

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