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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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LocalBitcoins Trader 'Bitcoin Maven' Sentenced to Year in Prison

A Los Angeles bitcoin trader was sentenced Monday to one year in federal prison after she admitted to operating an unlawful money transmission business.

Theresa Tetley, a former stockbroker and real estate investor based in California, was also fined $20,000 and will give up 40 bitcoins (an amount worth roughly $254,000), nearly $300,000 in cash and 25 assorted gold bars, according to a notice from the U.S. Department of Justice.

As CoinDesk previously reported, Tetley worked as a trader on the LocalBitcoins exchange platform under the name “Bitcoin Maven” between 2014 and 2017 and reportedly exchanged millions of dollars worth of crypto during that period.

The year-long sentence – plus one day – is less than the 30 months Tetley potentially faced as the sentencing process moved forward. It represents a win for Tetley, whose lawyers sought a one-year prison term.

Brian Klein, one of Tetley’s attorneys, called the result “a victory,” according to LA Times, as it is much shorter than the previous 30-month jail time.

“We are pleased the judge made such a dramatic departure,” Klein told the publication.

Tetley’s case is considered to be the first of its kind within California’s Central District, but other lawsuits in the past couple of years have taken aim at U.S.-based traders who used the LocalBitcoins platform.

In one case from 2017, a bitcoin trader and his father were charged with running an unlawful money services business, resulting in a nine-year sentence for Michael Lord.

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The leader in blockchain news, CoinDesk is a media outlet that strives for the highest journalistic standards and abides by a strict set of editorial policies. CoinDesk is an independent operating subsidiary of Digital Currency Group, which invests in cryptocurrencies and blockchain startups.

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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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The leader in blockchain news, CoinDesk is a media outlet that strives for the highest journalistic standards and abides by a strict set of editorial policies. CoinDesk is an independent operating subsidiary of Digital Currency Group, which invests in cryptocurrencies and blockchain startups.