Alexander Vinnik, the man alleged to have masterminded crypto money laundering worth over $4 billion, will not be extradited to France, at least not yet. Greek’s top court has suspended a decision made by the country’s Justice Minister days ago, Reuters reports.
Vinnik was scheduled to be extradited to France where he would face charges related to fraud and money laundering. As CoinGeek reported, the decision was made by the Minister for Justice, going against a decision by a top court to extradite Vinnik to Russia. The court has intervened again, this time suspending the minister’s decision.
Vinnik is alleged to have been the man behind BTC-e, one of the earliest crypto exchanges in the world. BTC-e was founded in 2011 and rose to become one of the top players in the crypto exchange business. However, it all came crashing down when authorities begun investigating the exchange and found that it had been involved in several illegal dealings. The authorities revealed that several criminals involved in cyber-attacks had used BTC-e to launder their money. They also alleged that some of the proceeds had gone to Vinnik’s personal bank account.
Vinnik was arrested in 2018 in Greece and has since been held in the Southeast European country. France, the U.S., and Russia have all sought to have him extradited to their countries ever since he was arrested. Vinnik has fought to be extradited to Russia, his home country. So when the Justice Minister decided to extradite him to France, Russia was up in arms.
Vinnik was devastated by the decision as well, according to his lawyer Zoe Konstantopoulou. Reuters reported that he went on a hunger strike to protest the decision, for the second time this year. Zoe termed the decision as “unfair and a death sentence” in a statement. His health has deteriorated in the past few days, she added. She also applauded the court’s decision to suspend the extradition, saying that it was “a recognition of the risk he faces if he is extradited.”
Extradition to Russia means Vinnik will face lesser fraud charges, which amount to just $16,000. In comparison, Vinnik faces several years of imprisonment if he is taken to either U.S. or France.
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