France appeals court upholds BTC-e Alexander Vinnik’s 5-year jail sentence

France appeals court upholds BTC-e Alexander Vinnik’s 5-year jail sentence

An appeals court in Paris has backed a five-year prison sentence for Alexander Vinnik, the founder of dubious cryptocurrency firm BTC-e, in the latest development in the long running case against him.

The court upheld a previous ruling handed down in December 2020, which found that Vinnik had been guilty of money laundering and had provided false information about the origins of funds to authorities.

In the process, the court dismissed a number of requests from defense lawyers for Vinnik, including requests to scrutinize the evidence brought against him by the FBI. Vinnik also had an original fine imposed by the court quashed, in the amount of €100,000.

Vinnik was initially prosecuted in connection with ransomware attacks impacting on some 200 people, charges which were later dismissed. Prosecutors had appealed for a smaller fine amount, citing concerns over Vinnik’s ability to pay back to the victims of his crimes.

The ruling is the latest development in the case against Vinnik, which has spanned multiple different countries across several years. The Russian citizen was originally detained in Greece in 2017, after an order was issued by authorities in the United States.

An extradition battle then ensued between different jurisdictions, including France, the United States and Russia, with each presenting their own charges against Vinnik. There is now concern Vinnik may still be sought for extradition in Greece and elsewhere over related charges, which could result in further custodial sentences and fines in the months to come.

Russia’s extradition request was submitted citing humanitarian grounds, with Vinnik wanted in his home country on much lesser charges. However, there has been some suggestion of political motivations, as well as indications Russian intelligence agencies may have been connected with BTC-e in classified operations.

If his extradition to Russia succeeds, Vinnik could face relatively minor charges of “fraud in the field of computer information.”

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