After seeing his extradition from Greece to France delayed last year, the world’s largest Bitcoin scammer, Alexander Vinnik, was whisked away in secret earlier this week. The Russian citizen is purportedly the mastermind behind a multimillion-dollar money-laundering scheme through the use of cryptocurrency, and is now going to have to answer for his crimes, starting with this first stop in France. After meeting with French investigators yesterday, he is now looking at a list of charges, including “extortion, aggravated money laundering, conspiracy and harming automatic data-processing systems,” according to a report by Bloomberg.
In addition to an outstanding indictment in France, Vinnik is also facing another legal battle in the US and a third in Greece. Greece decided to give France a go at him first, and he will then be returned to the country to face charges there. After that, he could be sent to the US to be prosecuted once again.
This international plot doesn’t sit well with Vinnik’s lawyer in Greece, Zoi Konstantopoulou. He says that the alleged fraudster is being “persecuted” for his blockchain knowledge and adds, “Alexander’s crime is to be Russian and a person with extraordinary technological knowledge that could liberate people economically… The Greek Minister of Justice has in essence decided that this person is going to spend his life being extradited, judged and then re-extradited, re-judged and yet again re-extradited and re-judged.”
Best known for running the BTC-e crypto exchange, Vinnik first came under attack by prosecutors in the US in 2017. In July of that year, he was arrested in Greece on suspicion of money laundering tied to $4 billion in transactions that passed through the exchange. Since then, countries, including the US, Greece, France and Russia, have been fighting to have the first go at him. He has remained in custody ever since.
As of now, Vinnik will remain locked up in France and will, as soon as a date is set, appear in court to answer to the charges. He complains that his human rights have been violated because of the lengthy incarceration and has been on a hunger strike for the past 40 days out of protest. Because of the protest, he is being kept in a French hospital. France is reportedly still investigating Vinnik’s activity, and a court date won’t be established until that investigation is complete.
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