On Wednesday, a Greek court supported the American extradition request for Alexander Vinnik. He is accused of laundering upwards of $4 billion of criminal proceeds through BTC-e. However, a competing Russian extradition request on lesser fraud charges could derail American authorities.
On October 4, 2017, a Greek court ruled to extradite Alexander Vinnik to the United States, according to the Associated Press. Vinnik, suspected of laundering $4 billion worth of bitcoin, was arrested while vacationing in northern Greece in July 2017.
BREAKING: Greek court rules to extradite Russian bitcoin fraud suspect Alexander Vinnik to the United States.
— The Associated Press (@AP) October 4, 2017
US officials charge that as the operator of BTC-e, Vinnik extensively laundered criminal proceeds thereby facilitating drug trafficking and hacking, accusations that he has repeatedly denied. Instead, Vinnik claims he was simply a technical consultant and BTC-e was one of his clients.
On July 26, 2017, the day after Vinnik’s arrest, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) levied a $110 million fine against BTC-e for violations of American anti-money laundering (AML) laws. As if the web of activity wasn’t large enough already, American authorities have also tied Vinnik to the failure of Japanese bitcoin exchange MtGox. If extradited to the US, Vinnik faces up to 55 years in prison.
But, Russian authorities also want Vinnik on separate fraud charges, according to The News Tribune. A hearing for Russia’s extradition request is slated for October 11 and although Vinnik’s lawyers have fought against the American extradition request, they are not contesting the Russian request.
At present, Vinnik’s lawyers are appealing to the Greek Supreme Court, claiming that there are “insufficient indications, let alone evidence” against the accused. “We hope and expect a better outcome,” said defense lead Alexandros Lykourezos.
Nikos Paraskevopoulos, the Greek Minister of Justice, will have the final word on the competing extradition cases, and may play a critical role in determining where Vinnik stands trial.