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Greek Supreme Court Rules to Extradite Alleged BTC-e Owner Alexander Vinnik to Russia

The Supreme Civil and Criminal Court of Greece has ruled to extradite alleged BTC-e owner Alexander Vinnik to Russia to face several cyber fraud charges, Russian state news agency RIA Novosti reports Tuesday, September 4.

The formal decision on extradition to Russia will be issued September 14, coming into force the same day.

During the actual hearing, the Supreme Court will also consider France’s request on the alleged BTC-e owner’s extradition.

According to RIA, Vinnik agreed with his extradition to Russia. “[This case] is now up to politicians and their will,” his attorney Timofey Musatov stated.

The U.S., France, and Russia are currently arguing about the location of Vinnik’s extradition. Several Greek courts have previously ruled in favor of all three countries, with the final decision taken by Greek Minister of Justice.

Vinnik was arrested by Greek police back in July 2017 as the U.S. Department of Justice convicted him of fraud and money laundering around $4 billion worth amount of Bitcoin (BTC).

France later charged Vinnik with “defraud[ing] over 100 people in six French cities between 2016 and 2018”.

In the same time, the Russian government also intervened in the case, asking to extradite the Russian national to his home country. The amount of fraud Vinnik is charged with in Russia is equal to 667,000 rubles (around $9,800), RIA had reported last year.

Days before the final hearing in the Supreme Court, Vinnik’s attorney Makarov accused French prosecutors of trying to question Vinnik without Greek officials’ permission, Cointelegraph reported last week.

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France’s Interrogation of Alleged BTC-e Owner Alexander Vinnik Was ‘Fake’, Says Attorney

Alleged former owner of crypto exchange BTC-e Alexander Vinnik was indicted and subjected to a “fake” interrogation by French prosecutors on Tuesday, August 28, his attorney Timofey Musatov told Russian news outlet Izvestiya Thursday, August 30.

Musatov claims that his client Vinnik was brought to a court in Greece where he is currently awaiting extradition and then informed about official charges in France.

Musatov also told Izvestiya that French prosecutors attempted to hold a “fake” interrogation without informing his lawyers, which he insists was a violation of Vinnik’s rights.

He further explains that under Greek law only local security forces can conduct investigation procedures in the country. Vinnik’s attorney raises the question to reporters of why “French citizens though involved in prosecution can proceed with investigation in another country with no relevant permission.”

According to Izvestiya’s report, Musatov did not specify which particular accusations Vinnik is facing in France nor did he mention the questions Vinnik was allegedly asked during the examination.

Vinnik was arrested by Greek police in July 2017 under the order of the U.S. Department of Justice, who accused him of fraud and laundering $4 billion in Bitcoin over the course of six years.

As Cointelegraph reported this July, France charged Vinnik in absentia of “defraud[ing] over 100 people in six French cities between 2016 and 2018” and requested his extradition. That same month a Greek court ruled to extradite Vinnik to France, but his attorneys appealed against the court’s decision in the Greek Supreme Court.

At the time of Greece’s ruling, the Russian government also intervened in Russian national Vinnik’s case, asking the court to extradite him to his home country.

The decision over which country will eventually apprehend Vinnik is up to Greece’s justice minister. The next hearing will reportedly be held on Tuesday, September 4, in the Supreme Civil and Criminal Court of Greece.

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New Extradition Request Complicates Case of Bitcoin Fraud Suspect Alexander Vinnik

A Greek court has accepted a Russian request to extradite Bitcoin (BTC) fraud suspect Alexander Vinnik, complicating subsequent international litigation, the Associated Press reported July 30.

A panel of senior judges in the city of Thessaloniki ruled in favor of a new extradition request from Russia for the accused computer expert. At a hearing on Monday, Vinnik reportedly denied allegations of fraudulent activity and said that he was fighting U.S. dominance in the global financial system. The court’s decision complicates the case as the U.S. and France seek his extradition as well.

Vinnik, who is a former owner of crypto exchange BTC-e, was arrested by Greek police in July 2017 under the order of the U.S. Department of Justice. Authorities accused him of fraud and laundering as much as $4 billion in Bitcoin over the course of six years.

On July 13, a Greek court “granted France’s request for Vinnik’s extradition,” which could lead to further extradition to the U.S. However, Vinnik’s lawyer said that he was planning to appeal against the court’s decision in the Greek Supreme Court.

French authorities have accused Vinnik of “defraud[ing] over 100 people in six French cities between 2016 and 2018.” The BTC-e owner denied the allegations, claiming that he was “transferring e-money through a platform,” which he considered “legitimate personal transactions.”

While the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has previously insisted that Russia’s request for Vinnik’s extradition should be given priority over France’s, the decision over which country will eventually apprehend Vinnik is up to Greece’s justice minister.

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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.

Paris image via Shutterstock 

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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Greek Court Rules to Extradite Alexander Vinnik, Accused of Laundering $4 Bln in Bitcoin

A Greek court has ruled to extradite the alleged former operator of crypto exchange BTC-e, Alexander Vinnik, to France, local news outlet CNN Greece reported Friday, July 13.

The 39-year old Russian national Vinnik, also known colloquially as “Mr. Bitcoin,” was indicted by U.S. authorities on charges of fraud and money laundering last year, reportedly involving up to $4 billion in Bitcoin (BTC).

Vinnik’s Greek lawyer Ilias Spyrliadis confirmed to Russian news agency TASS that “the court has granted France’s request for Vinnik’s extradition.” Spyrliadis also revealed that he is planning to appeal against the court’s decision in the Greek Supreme Court.

According to CNN Greece, Vinnik himself challenged the decision of the Greek court on extradition to France, denying the allegations of French authorities, who issued a warrant, in which the alleged BTC-e owner was accused of “defraud[ing] over 100 people in six French cities between 2016 and 2018.” Vinnik responded that he was “transferring e-money through a platform,” considering it as “legitimate personal transactions.”

Vinnik’s lawyer Spyrliadis assured Russian BBC that the latest extradition to France would lead to a further extradition to the U.S., because “otherwise the U.S. cannot get him, since the extradition process was blocked.”

The Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a comment July 13 in response to the events, accusing the Greek authorities of “continu[ing] to complicate relations with Russia.” The Ministry of Foreign Affairs claims that Russia’s request to extradite Vinnik should have been given priority over France’s, concluding “[i]t is obvious that Russia cannot leave these actions unanswered.”

On July 25, 2017, Vinnik was arrested by Greek police under the order of of the U.S. Ministry of Justice, following the closure of once major cryptocurrency exchange BTC-e, allegedly owned and administered by Vinnik.

Having publicly stated his innocence in September 2017, Vinnik also denied his involvement in the Mt. Gox hack back in 2011 after a group of Bitcoin security experts claimed that Vinnik had a direct relationship to the incident.

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Will Cryptocurrencies Preserve Their Popularity in Greece? Expert Take

In our Expert Takes, opinion leaders from inside and outside the crypto industry express their views, share their experience and give professional advice. Expert Takes cover everything from Blockchain technology and ICO funding to taxation, regulation and cryptocurrency adoption by different sectors of the economy.

If you would like to contribute an Expert Take, please email your ideas and CV to george@cointelegraph.com.

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras hailed the Eurogroup debt deal for Greece during a televised exchange with President Prokopis Pavlopoulos, referring to a “historic” agreement that exceeded the expectations of the markets.

“June 21, 2018 will go down in history as a significant day in the history of the eurozone,” he said, noting that the agreement made Greece’s debt “sustainable.”

But what does this mean for cryptocurrency’s future in Greece?  The Greeks frantically turned to online trading platforms in search of  Bitcoin during the doldrums of debt crisis in 2015, when banks began shutting down and capital controls were put in place.  Will cryptocurrencies and its underlying blockchain technology find a place in the Greek economy going forward now that the debt crisis has been alleviated?

What the EU and Greek Government Says

The European Union (EU) and member state countries are putting technological innovation — including  cryptocurrencies and its underlying blockchain technology — into a strategic tool for income growth, national competitiveness and economic well-being.  

The High-Level Group of Innovators — which has several blockchain technologists on its board — advises the European Commission (EC) on supporting top-class innovators, entrepreneurs, small companies and scientists with bright ideas and the ambition to scale up internationally.   The EC in-turn has an initiative called  the EU Blockchain Observatory and Forum to help member states work collaboratively to integrate and consolidate views, analysis and visions, create a knowledge repository, accelerate innovation and identify priority use cases for blockchain technology.

So far, twenty-two out of twenty-eight EU member states including Greece have signed on to the EU Blockchain partnership to exchange experience and expertise in technical and regulatory fields and prepare for the launch of EU-wide blockchain applications across the Digital Single Market for the benefit of the public and private sectors.   Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, Hungary, Italy and Romania have opted out.

On May 16th, the European Parliament Committee on Industry, Research and Energy passed a resolution outlining the benefits of adopting blockchain/distributed ledger technology (DLT).

The author of the resolution, Eva Kaili, the chair of the Science and Technology Options Assessment panel said “Blockchain and DLT in general have a strong disruptive element that will affect many sectors” including energy.   She called for “open-minded, progressive, and innovation-friendly regulation.”

The resolution states:

“A DLT-based infrastructure within and amongst the EU Institutions utilizing pan European public-sector blockchains could be the heart of a trusted transactional ecosystem.”

The resolution continues by addressing the fact that smart contracts are the backbone of DLT and calls for the EC to explore the technical aspects of legally enforcing them across the digital single market, which ensures the free movement of online information across European borders adding that among other applications, “DLT can transform and democratize the energy markets and allow households to produce environment-friendly energy and peer-to-peer exchange.”  

In Europe, because gas is more environmentally friendly and cleaner than oil, it is the one of the most important energy sources. Greece is important to EU’s gas energy source both from a gas pipeline distribution point of view as well as from a supply point of view. Via Cyprus, Greece controls portions of the East Mediterranean gas supply of over 122 trillion cubic feet.

With the aim of expanding economic cooperation and trade relations with the Eurasian Economic Commission which is a gas energy trading block, Greece signed a Joint Declaration on Cooperation agreement on June 24,  2017.  The good news is that, the EEC is as committed to blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies as the EU and Greece is.

What Greek academics say

Konstantinos Daskalakis, Cretan-born Massachusetts Institute of Technology Associate Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, called on his fellow Greeks to think both globally and locally, and said that the multiple economic and social dysfunctions in the country must be overcome by embracing technology and artificial intelligence (AI).  In terms of crypto-currencies like Bitcoin, “it is one of the most fascinating discoveries of the 21st century,” he said and that the underlying technology (blockchain) has a future and “is here to stay.”

To determine whether or not cryptocurrencies are here to stay, an international research team comprised of Theodore Panagiotidis at the University of Macedonia in Greece and Orestis Vravosinos at the Barcelona Graduate School of Economics in Spain analyzed a broad spectrum of data representing several years in the life of Bitcoin, to reach a deeper understanding of cryptocurrency’s value.

Here is what they had to say:  

“With Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, transactions are conducted free of taxation. We can’t be sure what the nature of those transactions are, but often cryptocurrencies are used to avoid taxes or duties, or to engage in illicit commerce.

If cryptocurrencies continue to grow and position themselves as systems that are beyond the influence of banks and the reach of government regulation, we can be sure that governments will enact national laws and take their share of the proceeds.

Many people believe that Bitcoin is going to replace the money we currently use, but we doubt it. That’s because the government will never allow it. Governments want the tax revenues, and they want control.  Bitcoin’s fate is therefore highly unpredictable and dependent on what governments will do in the future.”

What Greek tax professionals say about Greek cryptocurrency tax policy and laws

“Currently there is no regulatory framework and relevant procedure to tax income derived from crypto/ICO transactions or mining activity within the Greek tax legislation. However, this does not mean that such income cannot be taxed by the Greek Tax Authority” said Spyros Dimitriou, Lawyer / Senior Manager, Tax, KPMG in Greece.

“If cryptocurrency/ICO transactions or mining activity is characterized as business activity or capital gains then such business income would be taxed at 29% in case of companies. In case of individuals’ capital gains would be taxed at 15% and business activity including cryptocurrency/ICO transactions or mining activity would be taxed according to a graduated tax scale provided by the law (22% – 45%) he added.

Currently, Cyprus does not tax cryptocurrencies either.

Selva Ozelli, Esq., CPA is an international tax attorney and CPA who frequently writes about tax, legal and accounting issues for Tax Notes, Bloomberg BNA, other publications and the OECD.

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Greek Supreme Court Wants to Extradite Vinnik to the US, Final Decision Pending

Greece’s Supreme Court has upheld a US request to extradite alleged former BTC-e operator Alexander Vinnik.

Reports Wednesday confirm the support of sending the embattled Russian citizen to the US, where he faces money laundering charges.

Greece’s justice minister will now decide the ultimate outcome, with Russia and the US vying for custody of Vinnik for several months.

The move marks a blow for Vinnik himself, who had petitioned to be sent to his native country where he is wanted on lesser charges.

Since his initial arrest in Greece in July, BTC-e has ceased to exist, being reincarnated as WEX. Legal investigations are nonetheless still ongoing, with US authorities seeking to hand down fines totalling $122 mln between the exchange and Vinnik respectively.

Denying personal involvement beyond peripheral “advisory” role, Vinnik maintains his innocence.

In October, a lower Greek court had recommended “satisfying Russia’s request” for extradition, adding there was “no reason not to” hand him over to Moscow.

“The Supreme Court has in essence accepted that our client should be sent to the United States,” Vinnik’s lawyer said in official comments following the ruling.

“Our client has not made any response. He listened to the ruling as it was read out… It is now up to the justice minister to decide when and where our client will be sent.”

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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.

Law image via Shutterstock

The leader in blockchain news, CoinDesk is an independent media outlet that strives for the highest journalistic standards and abides by a strict set of editorial policies. Have breaking news or a story tip to send to our journalists? Contact us at news@coindesk.com.

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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.

Court image via Shutterstock

The leader in blockchain news, CoinDesk is an independent media outlet that strives for the highest journalistic standards and abides by a strict set of editorial policies. Have breaking news or a story tip to send to our journalists? Contact us at news@coindesk.com.