French judge orders trial for BTC-e founder Alexander Vinnik

A judge in Paris has ordered the trial of alleged BTC money launderer Alexander Vinnik in France. Vinnik was extradited to France early this year where he is accused of defrauding over 100 people between 2016 and 2018.

The ruling comes just a week after prosecutors in France petitioned to start the trial of the 40-year-old Russian. Vinnik was handed to the French authorities in January 2020, several years after he was arrested in Greece under the request of the United States.

Vinnik will stand trial for extortion and aggravated money laundering, the Moscow Times reports. Citing Paris-based Agence France-Presse, the outlet noted that Vinnik is also charged with the fraudulent access and modification of data in processing systems and criminal association.

According to French prosecutors, Vinnik played a big part in the defrauding of more than 100 people in six cities in France between 2016 and 2018. The victims ranged from individuals to companies and local authorities, sources told AFP.

Vinnik’s legal team has been seeking to stop the trial to no avail. His lawyer in France Ariane Zimra said the French authorities denied the defense team a chance to present the facts before the ruling was made.

French prosecutors alleged that Vinnik was linked to Locker ransomware that wreaked havoc in 2016 in France. The ransomware demanded payment in BTC after encrypting the victims’ documents. It led to over €135 million in losses.

Being the alleged founder and operator of BTC-e exchange, Vinnik’s role in cybercrime extends beyond the Locker ransomware. According to research conducted by Google, Chainalysis and the New York University, BTC-e was responsible for the cashing out of 95% of all ransomware payments made between 2014 and 2017.

Vinnik is also linked to the infamous Mt. Gox exchange, with security researchers alleging that most of the BTC that was stolen from the digital currency exchange was laundered through BTC-e and other digital currency wallets that Vinnik owned.

After he stands trial in France, Vinnik will be extradited to the U.S. where he faces 21 charges. He will then be extradited to Russia where he will face a lesser fraud charge involving $11,000.

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