Appeal Denied: BTC-e’s Alexander Vinnik Faces 5 Years in French Prison

Several charges against the former operator of BTC-e were dropped, but the sentence remains the same.

The Paris’ Court of Appeals is upholding the decision to sentence Alexander Vinnik to five years in prison on money laundering charges, according to a new report from Bitcoin.com. Vinnik’s defence team attempted to appeal the Court’s previous decision in May.

Vinnik, a Russian national, is the former operator of BTC-e, a cryptocurrency trading platform seized by the United States Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) in July of 2017.

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While the prison sentence remains in effect, several charges were dropped from Vinnik’s rap sheet, including extortion of money through malware. Additionally, a $100,000 fine was reportedly dropped from Vinnik’s sentence.

Vinnik’s defence team already has plans to appeal the new decision. Frédéric Bélot, Vinnik’s lawyer, told Russian business news outlet Kommersant that he does not believe the prosecution had enough evidence to argue that Vinnik was the recipient of transactions related to money laundering. “This is not the case,” Bélot said.

“If we summarize what happened, we have to regrettably admit that the court made a ‘lazy decision’. The judge did not want to investigate the money laundering charges, despite that the prosecution’s evidence is far from certain.”

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Vinnik’s Defence Team Is Fighting against Extradition to the United States

Vinnik was originally arrested in the Greek city of Thessaloniki in 2017 when he arrived for a vacation with his family. Upon arrival, he was detained based on an arrest warrant from the United States government accusing him of laundering up to $9 billion through BTC-e.

Therefore, while Vinnik’s defence is working on getting his five-year sentence expunged, the team reportedly primarily focuses on ensuring that Vinnik will not be extradited to Greece after serving time in France. According to Bitcoin.com, the defence believes that Greece may allow United States authorities to extradite Vinnik: a move that could ultimately lead to more prison time.

Currently, it is unclear whether French authorities will send Vinnik to Greece or not. According to Frédéric Bélot, the judge presiding over the case said that Vinnik’s rights would not be violated in Greece.

Bélot argues that extradition to the U.S. would mean that the former BTC-e operator would face a new trial “in extreme, not European conditions.” Bélot said that this is a serious threat to Vinnik’s “already shaken physical and mental health” and is already planning to submit a new appeal soon.

Furthermore, Vinnik is reportedly sought by Russian authorities, who have accused him of “fraud in the field of computer information.” However, the French government rejected Moscow’s request to extradite Vinnik. During his detention in Greece, Vinnik previously stated he was willing to return and appear in court in his home country.

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