Alexander Vinnik, the operator of the infamous BTC-e crypto exchange, is being extradited to France from Greece. Vinnik was arrested in 2017 in Greece for allegedly operating one of the largest money laundering schemes in crypto. He is now being extradited to France first, followed by U.S., and then finally to Russia—a decision that has angered the Russian government.
Vinnik was arrested in July 2017 in Northern Greece. He was charged with money laundering, facilitation of hacking, identity theft, tax refund fraud, drug trafficking and public corruption. Since then, France, the United States, and Russia have been involved in a battle to extradite him to their countries to stand trial. Vinnik has repeatedly stated that he wanted to be extradited to Russia, his home. The Russian government has been intent on making Vinnik’s wish come true, although that wouldn’t happen anytime soon.
The Russian embassy to Greece announced Vinnik’s extradition to France on Twitter. The embassy revealed that it had learned that the Greek Minister of Justice had approved the extradition of Vinnik to France. It expressed its displeasure at the decision, stating, “We regret that the documented request by the Prosecutor General’s Office of Russia for the extradition of Alexander Vinnik to his country of citizenship was ignored.”
1/3 Πληροφορηθήκαμε για το περιεχόμενο της απόφασης του Υπουργού Δικαιοσύνης της Ελλάδος που καθορίζει την προτεραιότητα εκτέλεσης των αποφάσεων των ελληνικών δικαστηρίων για την έκδοση του Ρώσου υπηκόου κ. Αλεξάντρ Βίννικ στη #Ρωσία, τη Γαλλία και τις ΗΠΑ. pic.twitter.com/cduQJh13K1
— Rus Embassy, Greece (@RFEmbassyGr) December 20, 2019
The embassy followed this up with a statement on RIA Novosti, the state-run news agency. It stated:
“We got acquainted with the decision of the Greek Minister of Justice, which determines the order of execution of decisions issued earlier by Greek courts on the extradition of the Russian citizen Vinnik to Russia, France and the USA. At the first stage, Vinnik will be extradited to France. We were informed about this by Moscow. We are sorry that the Prosecutor General’s reasonable request Russia ignored Vinnik’s priority extradition to his country of citizenship.”
Vinnik’s defense attorney was also displeased with the extradition decision, a report by The Greek Reporter revealed. Lawyer Zoe Constantopoulou said she would file a legal request to have the decision to extradite Vinnik to France canceled.
Vinnik sought to be extradited to Russia, where is he charged with lesser crimes compared to the other two countries. He also allegedly wants to lend his services to the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, in exchange for a pardon on his crimes.
The decision by the Greek Justice Minister goes against a 2018 verdict by the country’s top court that ruled to extradite Vinnik to Russia. The Supreme Civil and Criminal Court of Greece had sided with Russia at the time, although the final decision was left to the Justice Minister.
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