Alexander Vinnik, still hunger striking, appeals for extradition

Alexander Vinnik, still hunger striking, appeals for extradition

Alexander Vinnik is seeking extradition to Russia, a report has revealed. Vinnik is alleged to be the mastermind behind BTC-e exchange. At least three countries are after him for charges of fraud and money laundering.

According to the report by Russian outlet Ekathimerini, Vinnik is seeking the extradition to his homeland of Russia for humanitarian reasons. Vinnik has filed for the extradition in a court in Piraeus, a port city in Attica, Greece. 

The 39-year-old has been on a hunger strike for the past 90 days. An ambulance had to transport him to the courtroom, the report indicates. His lawyers told the court that his life is at risk. They also claimed that the charges against Vinnik are unfounded. Further, they criticized the Greek justice system for detaining their client for more than the legally mandated maximum of 18 months for pre-trial detention.

Vinnik has been in detention in Greece since July 2017. The Greek police arrested him for allegedly laundering over $4 billion in cash through BTC-e, a crypto exchange which he operated. BTC-e was the largest Russian-language crypto exchange back then. The police also charged him with conspiracy and transacting in illegally-obtained cash.

While the police only arrested Vinnik, he wasn’t the only operator of the now-defunct exchange. However, his ties to illegal crypto activities went beyond his involvement with BTC-e. A big chunk of the stolen Mt. Gox BTC tokens was laundered through his exchange. Moreover, investigators found some of the stolen tokens on his personal crypto wallet. 

Vinnik’s extradition appeals have attracted quite some attention, including from the Commissioner of Human Rights in Russia. As we reported a month ago, Tatyana Moskalkova wrote to the Minister of Justice in Greece requesting to extradite him. She also wrote to the Red Cross, the Greek Minister of Health and the Greek Ombudsman requesting for assistance. In her pleas, she stated that Vinnik’s wife was critically ill, suffering from a brain tumor.

And for BTC-e, money laundering controversies seem to follow it everywhere, even after the FBI shut it down. WEX, its successor, also has links to crypto money laundering according to a PwC report. The report claimed that two Iranians who are linked to the SamSam crypto malware used WEX to launder millions of dollars.

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