A court in Thessaloniki, Greece agreed to extradite Alexander Vinnik, a suspected operator of the Bitcoin exchange formerly known as BTC-e, to Russia on October 11. Vinnik previously was to be handed to the US as was decided by the court on October 4. However, as a Russian citizen, Vinnik protested the extradition to the US and agreed to surrender himself to Russia, where he faces comparatively tamer fraud charges, as opposed to money laundering charges in the US. Vinnik’s ultimate fate will be decided by the Supreme Court of Greece in Athens.
The FBI fined Vinnik $12 million and fined the BTC-e Bitcoin exchange $110 million for violating US anti money laundering laws. The US fined a non-US Bitcoin exchange for not collecting personal identification from every US transaction. Vinnik claimed that his involvement with BTC-e was as a consultant. He denied any allegations that he owned the exchange. In Russia, Vinnik faces charges for fraud amounting to $11,500. After Vinnik appealed to Russian President Vladimir Putin, the Russian Ministry announced that the extradition violated international law.
Vinnik’s lawyer announced that Vinnik agreed to be sent to Russia instead of the United States. When asked by Greek authorities why he wanted to return to Russia, Vinnik responded: “I have nothing to do with the United States. I am a Russian citizen and will let the court in Russia deal with it.” Vinnik’s lawyer admits that the decision is a formality, as not long before the Russian extradition request, the Greek court approved the extradition to the United States. The date for the Supreme Court of Greece hearing has not been set yet.
Following the approval of the US extradition request, a member of the State Duma’s international affairs committee commented on the situation. He said that Russia still has a chance to get Vinnik back to Russia and that they must exhaust every possible option to do so. He also said that the United States continues to involve themselves in situations they do not belong in, especially with regard to technology related crimes.
The 38-year-old Russian citizen was arrested by Greek authorities at the request of the US government in July. The US accused him of running BTC-e since 2011 and intentionally allowing the laundering of the proceeds from internet crime. According to the US, Vinnik laundered $4 billion in Bitcoin. This sets up a dangerous precedent for Bitcoin-related law, as BTC-e was not situated in the US.