Prisoner in prison with silhouette behind the bars

US secures extradition of BTC-e exchange founder Alexander Vinnik from Greece: report

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has secured the extradition of Alexander Vinnik, the founder of the now defunct BTC-e digital assets exchange, from Greece, where he first faced trial on charges of money-laundering. 

According to CNN, the 40-year-old Russian national’s lawyer in France, Frédéric Bélot, disclosed that Vinnik is now headed to the U.S. to face trial in the Northern District of California from Athens in Greece.

Vinnik operated the BTC-e exchange from 2011 to 2017, when it was shut down. During this period, the exchange transacted more than $4 billion worth of BTC. U.S. prosecutors allege that the exchange did business with ransomware gangs, drug dealers, and identity thieves. 

Vinnik is also accused of operating an unlicensed money service in America, in addition to other charges, and has been under indictment in the United States since 2017. At the time, the U.S. Treasury Department assessed a $10 million civil money penalty for BTC-e and a $10 million fee against Vinnik. 

In 2020, Vinnik was extradited to France, where he was sentenced to five years in prison over money laundering charges. He has completed two years of this sentence before his latest extradition.

The extradition is a significant win for the U.S. Justice Department, which has been embroiled in a high-stakes fight with Russia to gain custody of the suspect, CNN notes. According to reports, Russian authorities have been fighting to secure his extradition to lessen his charges in his home country. 

US tightening digital assets sanctions on Russia

Relations between the U.S. and Russia have continued to worsen over the years. In recent times, the U.S. has coordinated the imposition of sanctions aimed at Russia‘s economy amidst Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. 

The U.S. and other jurisdictions have also taken measures to ensure that Russia cannot evade these sanctions through the digital assets market. The Treasury Department has added a long list of Russian digital assets wallets and blockchain-related entities to its list of specially designated entities. 

It is also cracking down hard on ransomware and other cybercrime groups it believes to have ties with Russia. The U.S. Department of State is offering a $15 million bounty for information on the Russian ransomware group Conti, which has allegedly extorted over $150 million from over 1,000 organizations.

Follow CoinGeek’s Crypto Crime Cartel series, which delves into the stream of groups from BitMEX to BinanceBitcoin.comBlockstreamShapeShiftCoinbaseRipple, EthereumFTX and Tether—who have co-opted the digital asset revolution and turned the industry into a minefield for naïve (and even experienced) players in the market.

New to Bitcoin? Check out CoinGeek’s Bitcoin for Beginners section, the ultimate resource guide to learn more about Bitcoin—as originally envisioned by Satoshi Nakamoto—and blockchain.

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