BTC-E operator Alexander Vinnik gets five years in jail

A French court has sentenced Alexander Vinnik to 5 years in jail. Vinnik has been the subject of intense extradition battles between the U.S and Russia, but a court in France convicted him of laundering illegal proceeds. ZDNet France reports that French prosecutors had brought 14 charges against Vinnik; including being one of the masterminds behind the Locky ransomware. The malware targeted French citizens in 2016 and 2017, infecting close to 200 computers. Victims included local authorities and businesses. Once the malware encrypted the victim’s computer, it demanded a BTC payment for the decryption.

 

Vinnik allegedly laundered the proceeds through his digital currency trading platform, BTC-e. Vinnik’s lawyers have been adamant that their client was in no way involved with the ransomware. He was just an “ordinary freelance operator for the BTC-e platform which allegedly laundered the proceeds,” they claimed. A Parisian judge exonerated Vinnik of 13 charges brought against him, including operating the Locky ransomware. However, Vinnik was still sentenced to five years behind bars for laundering illegal proceeds from the malware campaign.

 

The judge stated in his ruling, “Mr. Vinnik, the court acquitted you of the offenses relating to the cyber-attacks linked to Locky, as well as the offenses of extortion and association to criminal activities, but finds you guilty of organized money laundering.” However, Vinnik’s legal team says they will be appealing Monday’s verdict.

Frederic Belot, one of Vinnik’s lawyers, further stated, “All these accusations have collapsed because Alexander Vinnik had nothing to do with them.”

According to ZDNet France, the extradition battle between the U.S and Russia has yet to end. The publication revealed that in the wake of the sentencing, both countries filed fresh extradition requests with France.

Will Vinnik get extradited?

Vinnik favors extradition to his homeland of Russia where he faces fraud charges of only $11,000. But in the U.S, prosecutors accuse him of laundering up to $4 billion through the BTC-e exchange. This charge could land Vinnik in jail for decades. The U.S prosecutors’ claims are backed by security researchers who have published reports claiming BTC-e was the king of BTC money laundering. At the Black Hat USA security conference three years ago, researchers claimed that BTC-e had laundered 95% of all ransomware payments made between 2014 and 2017. They credited the exchange with the rise of BTC ransomware payments.

 

New to Bitcoin? Check out CoinGeek’s Bitcoin for Beginners section, the ultimate resource guide to learn more about Bitcoin—as originally envisioned by Satoshi Nakamoto—and blockchain.