Purported BTC-e Operator Officially Seeks Extradition to Russia

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Alexander Vinnik, purported BTC-e exchange operator who is charged with laundering billions of dollars, is formally seeking extradition to Russia.

Local news source e-Kathimerini reported March 21 that Vinnik, a Russian national, has submitted an appeal in a city court in Piraeus for extradition or release to his home country for humanitarian reasons.

In July 2017, Vinnik was arrested in Greece because of police’s allegations of money laundering worth $4 billion since 2011 through a bitcoin platform. He was imprisoned for conspiracy, money laundering, and transacting in cash accumulated through illegal means.

Since Vinnik’s arrest, the governments of Russia, the U.S., and, more recently, France, have been seeking his extradition.

Vinnik has been firm that he is innocent of all charges. He was previously quoted as saying, “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.”

According to the e-Kathimerini report, Vinnik has been on a hunger strike for 90 days and was brought to the court by ambulance.

Vinnik’s lawyer argued that his life is “at risk” and reiterated that the charges brought against him are “unfounded.” They have also condemned 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 imposed a $110 million fine on BTC-e and a $12 million penalty on Vinnik in July 2017. Vinnik could be imprisoned for up to 55 years if convicted in the U.S.

WEX, the successor to the defunct BTC-e exchange, was also linked to illicit funds accumulated through ransomware attacks earlier this month. “Big Four” consulting firm PwC stated that two Iranians who developed the SamSam ransomware variants are connected to WEX and may have utilized it to launder millions in illegal affairs.