Russia has requested the home detention of Alexander Vinnik amid concerns over COVID-19, in its latest attempt to secure the extradition of the alleged money launderer.
Vinnik is currently in the custody of authorities in France, after being implicated in a $4 billion BTC money laundering scandal. The former BTC-e founder has been the subject of an intense legal struggle in recent months, with several states, including his native Russia, asserting their own rights to prosecute.
However, while Vinnik is wanted by authorities in France and the U.S. on money laundering charges, Russia has been attempting to secure his extradition on less serious charges. This is widely believed to be a legal tactic by Russia to extradite Vinnik, and to ensure he faces less serious charges in his home country.
The latest extradition request, reported by Russian media, highlights concerns for Vinnik’s safety amid the COVID-19 outbreak.
Speaking to RT, former Russian agent Maria Butina said Vinnik has existing health conditions which make his ongoing detention in France risky: “Vinnik’s health situation is indeed very complicated, and the coronavirus infection could pose him a risk of fatal outcome. I hope that the French authorities will be guided by their own stance of humanism and choose to save the life of a person who is at severe risk by giving Vinnik the opportunity to await the trial under house arrest.”
The request asks France to hand over Vinnik to Russian authorities, promising to detain him on behalf of French authorities under house arrest. According to the proposal, Vinnik will be detained by Russian authorities in a state-provided apartment, to allow him to avoid exposure to the potentially deadly coronavirus.
So far, requests for extradition have been ignored by French authorities, who remain determined to prosecute Vinnik on the outstanding money laundering charges.
Since his arrest in Greece in 2017, Vinnik has been in detention for some 30 months, as various states grapple to secure his extradition.
With the new Russian proposals on the table, it looks like his future remains uncertain.
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