Alexander Vinnik’s path stateside received a boost after a Greek court cleared the Russian national’s extradition to the US. Vinnik had initially appeared in a Thessaloniki court last week following his recent arrest for masterminding a $4 billion cryptocurrency-laundering racket.
His recent court hearing took place roughly two months after his arrest by Greek police, which constituted the latest setback for the alleged operator of cryptocurrency exchange BTC-e and chief suspect in the MtGox theft case. Vinnik was apprehended in July on suspicion of running a $4 billion money laundering operation related to illicit business activities with Bitcoin.
Since 2011, he had been suspected of heading a criminal organization that “owns, operates and manages one of the world’s leading e-crime websites”, according to a police statement. His arrest coincided with the blackout of BTC-e, leading many to posit a link between the two as well as triggering fears of a platform hack. Vinnik has apparently been under investigation for years by a group of Bitcoin security specialists, following prior investigations into MtGox.
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Dual extradition requests
Convoluting his path to the US is Russia’s parallel request for extradition of Vinnik, a Russian national. While no date is set, all signs appear to be pointing towards a free trip stateside, which could result in up to 55 years in Federal prison if extradited.
For his part, Vinnik is pushing back on a laundry list of allegations, denying all charges against him. According to a Reuters report, Vinnik asserted he was merely a technical consultant to BTC-e and not its operator.
Vinnik and his lawyers are clearly pining for a different outcome, or rather extradition back to Russia, a stance he has routinely held. US regulators are likely keen to make an example of the cyber criminal. All appeals to the Greek Supreme Court in his defense have thus far failed, with lawyers citing “insufficient indications, let alone evidence” against him presented in court.
Which country will win the Vinnik sweepstakes?
Despite the court clearing his extradition to the US, the decision will ultimately reside in the hands of Greece’s justice minister and the Supreme Court. Approving his extradition to the US would also in parallel block Russia’s request, which is one of the complicating factors hanging over the case.
“We have faith in the Greek justice system and a long road ahead of us,” Xanthippi Moisidou, a lawyer and part of Vinnik’s legal team.