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According to BTC-e operator Alexander Vinnik’s French attorney Frederic Belot, Vinnik has been extradited from Greece to the United States. The first to report on the extradition was CNN.
The Russian national is charged with operating an exchange for cryptocurrencies worth many billions of dollars that reportedly made money from several hacking and extortion activities.
The Justice Department claims that Alexander Vinnik, who is in his early 40s, controlled a cryptocurrency exchange called BTC-e that transacted business with identity thieves, drug dealers, and ransomware gangs. He is accused of operating an unregistered money service business in the US as well as money laundering in the US Northern District Court of California.
The extradition of Vinnik represents a significant victory for US law enforcement officials who had been engaged in a high-stakes extradition battle with Russia to get Vinnik’s custody.
The BTC-e owner is likely to make an initial court appearance in the US Northern District of California, according to Frédéric Bélot, Vinnik’s French attorney, who told CNN on Thursday afternoon that his client was traveling to the US from Athens, Greece, via plane.
The accused’s attorney further stated that Vinnik continues to maintain that he is innocent.
BTC-e runs its course
U.S. authorities had withdrawn their request for the Russian national’s extradition from France a few weeks prior. Vinnik’s attorney had previously stated that by withdrawing the extradition request, he could instead be transported to Greece and then the United States.
Belot did not elaborate on the legal strategy being employed at the time, choosing instead to say,
“By withdrawing their request, the U.S. reactivate the Greece request.”
Belot did not elaborate on the legal strategy being employed at the time, choosing instead to say that “by withdrawing their request, the U.S. reactivate the Greece request.”
Vinnik is well-known for being the owner of BTC-e, one of the early bitcoin (BTC) exchanges. BTC-e was connected to the heist of Mt.Gox, the first bitcoin exchange, which was forced to close down in 2014 after 744,408 BTC were stolen.
When American authorities shut down BTC-e in 2017, Vinnik was detained in Greece while vacationing on a beach with his family, and its servers were seized. Since then, Vinnik has been the target of extradition requests from the US, France, and Russia, each of which has a distinct set of accusations.
Vinnik was sentenced to five years in prison there by a French court in 2020, and the conviction was upheld last summer. France, however, triumphed in this case.