The French authorities have emerged victorious in the legal battle for Alexander Vinnik’s custody, at least for now.
Last week, a Greek court ruled that the alleged former operator of cryptocurrency exchange BTC-e will be extradited to France, CNN Greece reported. The French authorities have issued an arrest warrant for 39-year-old Russian national, who they accused of “looting” illegal profits amounting to an estimated €130 million (US$152.2 million). The “sums of money,” according to French police, were proceeds from cyber-attacks on computer systems, in which BTC-denominated ransom was requested from victims including more than 100 French citizens. Investigators said the illegal profits were deposited on the BTC-e platform.
Vinnik was arrested in a beachside village in northern Greece in July 2017 on suspicion of laundering more than $4 billion via BTC-e as well as facilitating hacking, fraud, identity theft, tax refund fraud, public corruption and drug trafficking activities during his time in the digital currency market.
A lower court initially ordered Vinnik to be turned over to U.S. authorities, but the Russian Foreign Ministry lodged its own extradition request, and Vinnik also appealed to be sent to his home country. At the time, Vinnik told Russian media that the U.S. “has nothing to do with” him because he is a Russian citizen, and so should “let the court in Russia deal with it.”
Vinnik’s lawyer Ilias Spyrliadis also plans to appeal the recent court decision to the Greek Supreme Court. In an interview with Russian BBC, Spyrliadis said an extradition to France would ultimately end in the U.S. authorities getting their hands on Vinnik, noting that “otherwise the U.S. cannot get him, since the extradition process was blocked.”
Vinnik himself also challenged the ruling, according to CNN Greece, which quoted him asking the court, “Since I have committed all these offenses, why is not Greece persecuting me?”
In response to the court ruling, the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement claiming that the Greek authorities have continued “to complicate relations with Russia,” and that “[i]t is obvious that Russia cannot leave these actions unanswered.”
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