‘US interested in his extradition’: Russian arrested for alleged bitcoin fraud fronts Greek court
Vinnik, 38, was arrested on a US warrant in the Greek resort area of Halkidiki as he was holidaying with his wife and two children in July this year. He is facing extradition to the US, where he is wanted on charges of money laundering and running “one of the most important websites of electronic crime in the world,” authorities said upon his arrest.
The Thessaloniki court will decide on Friday whether to extradite the Russian to the US. Asked by the judge if he admits his guilt, Vinnik denied any wrongdoing, Russian media reported.
Later the court said that it postponed the ruling till October 4, citing “large amounts of material,” Russian media reported the court’s spokesman as saying.
One of Vinnik’s lawyers, Timofey Musatov, confirmed to RT that the ruling had been postponed.
“The court will meet on Wednesday [October 4], and all our arguments will be heard,” Musatov told RT.
“If the court decides to extradite him, we can appeal the decision, and the appeal will be reviewed by the Greek High Court, which is in Athens, and which is responsible for criminal cases,” Alexandros Lykourezos, a renowned Greek lawyer who took Vinnik’s case, told RT.
Described as a skilled cryptocurrency consultant, Vinnik is alleged to have funneled at least $4 billion in bitcoin through various trading platforms such as Mt. Gox and BTC-e, which he is believed to be linked to, for the purpose of money laundering.
“This case is very new to Greek jurisprudence, and it is quite interesting for me as a lawyer, and we also hope that Greek judiciary and judges will consider it a high priority and we will get the result we are expecting,” Lykourezos said.
A northern California grand jury indicted Vinnik and BTC-e on 21 counts of money laundering and related crimes. If extradited to the US, the Russian may reportedly face up to 55 years in jail.
“So far there has been no evident political underpinning, but it is clear that the USA is very interested in our client being extradited,” Lykourezos added.
‘We’ll fight to the end’ – Vinnik’s wife to RT
Vinnik’s wife, Aleksandra, has arrived in Greece for the court hearings. She hopes that the Greek court “won't take on the responsibility of extraditing him” and says she is ready to fight for her husband “until the end,” she told RT in an interview.
“No matter what, I will fight to the bitter end. Just as I fight for him here, I will fight for him in America or any other country, until the end. Because I think justice must be served. And justice will be for my husband to be in Russia,” she said.
According to Aleksandra, time after her husband’s arrest turned out to be “an endless source of stress.”
“Every time I come here I can't get that my husband is here [in Greek prison], who just two months ago was at home playing with our kids,” she said.
Aleksandra’s health has been deteriorating due to constant stress, but she says that this is nothing compared to what her husband is undergoing.
“Yes, it's hard, but I have to deal with it, because I have two small kids, and I have a husband who I'm fighting for,” she added.
‘US want to impose its rules on everyone’ – analyst
Allegations that bitcoin and the BTC-e serve criminal activity are pointless, since US dollars, euros and other currencies are used for criminal activity, Dmitry Vasiliev from the International Blockchain Development Institute in Moscow told RT.
“The indictment shows that all computer incursions, fraud and extortion were conducted via the BTC-e. But there are more than a hundred platforms that have the same properties and where you can make a crypto exchange without registering,” he said.
“America wants to impose their rules on everyone, because they invented the internet,” he concluded.