Business

Erik Gibbs

Cyprus court drops charges against BTC-e founder

Alexander Vinnik, who allegedly founded the BTC-e cryptocurrency exchange before running off with everyone’s money, just got a brief reprieve. A district court in Cyprus has reportedly dropped a number of charges that had been levied against Vinnik, according to the RIA Novosti news outlet out of Russia.

The news outlet reports that Vinnik’s lawyers have said that the court withdrew its lawsuit against the accused, which included charges of “fraud, money laundering and other crimes.” In addition, Vinnik might also be compensated “for all legal costs incurred by him.”

The lead lawyer for Vinnik, Timofey Musatov, added, “The defense of Alexander Vinnik, while appreciating the decision taken by the Cyprus court, pays special attention to the fact that the case against Alexander collapsed at an early stage and, importantly, at the initiative of the plaintiffs themselves, which clearly indicates the weakness of the accusatory component against Alexander, the vulnerability of the legal position of the plaintiffs and their unwillingness to bring the case to open legal proceedings.”

The withdrawal doesn’t mark the end of the ordeal for the Russian citizen. Vinnik could be extradited to France or the U.S., or even Russia. All three countries have requested extradition, with France also filing a separate petition through a European Arrest Warrant.

First up could be France, which already saw its extradition request approved this past July. He is accused by French authorities of participating in cybercrime from January 2016 to June 2018, as well as “in another period,” as well as in extortion and money laundering. Whether or not he is sent to France could be decided today, when Vinnik makes another court appearance.

Vinnik had been detained in Greece on request of the U.S. Department of Justice over a year ago. He was picked up in July of last year after authorities asserted that he was connected to money-laundering activity on the now-defunct exchange and that he possibly facilities the illicit movement of as much as $4 billion.

The allegedly scammer has routinely argued that his rights have been violated while being locked away. Most recently, he threated to go on a hunger strike over the issue.

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