Business 28 November 2018

Dan Taylor

Alleged BTC-e operator goes on hunger strike to protest extradition

A former cryptocurrency exchange executive accused of using BTC to launder billions of dollars is preparing to go on hunger strike, according to statements issued by his legal team.

Russian citizen Alexander Vinnik was arrested in Greece at the request of U.S. authorities back in 2017, at the outset of what has become an embittered multi-jurisdictional battle for his extradition. After a ruling in the Greek Supreme Court that Vinnik should be extradited to the U.S., separate petitions from France and Russia have been presented, including a European Arrest Warrant issued by France back in June.

The courts are set to review their decision later this week, considering the multiple vying claims to extradition ahead of deciding how to proceed with Vinnik’s case.

Vinnik’s legal team are agitating for his extradition to his home nation of Russia, having labelled the alternatives as “close to a life sentence,” with the inevitable conclusion of eventual extradition to the United States.

Russian news agency TASS quoted the head of Vinnik’s legal representatives, Timofey Musatov, as saying that the man is now preparing a hunger strike in protest at what he alleges will be an unfair hearing. According to the report, “Alexander Vinnik decided to go on a hunger strike because he realized he was stripped of the right for defense in France and, consequently, in Greece…Moreover, it became clear that the European arrest warrant [issued by France] expired.”

“The Greek Supreme Court’s judge completely ignores the work of lawyers who cannot even file a petition. She does not give them an opportunity to speak or do it. After observing this situation, Alexander realized that he would either get a fair trial or die.” Musatov said. “If there is no fair trial, he will inevitably be deported to the United States through France, where he will get something close to a life sentence, which equals death.”

Vinnik is accused of laundering as much as $9 billion through the now defunct crypto exchange, BTC-e, in what has become one of the most high profile of the outstanding BTC fraud cases.

With authorities in France, Greece, the U.S. and laterally Russia apparently interested in bringing criminal convictions, it remains to be seen whether his planned hunger strike will assist Vinnik in getting his desired outcome.

Note: Tokens on the Bitcoin Core (SegWit) chain are referenced as BTC coins; tokens on the Bitcoin Cash ABC chain are referenced as BCH, BCH-ABC or BAB coins.

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