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4 Oct, 2017 11:46

Greek court backs extradition of alleged Russian ‘bitcoin mastermind’ to US

Greek court backs extradition of alleged Russian ‘bitcoin mastermind’ to US

A court in Thessaloniki, Greece, has approved a controversial request by the American authorities to extradite Aleksandr Vinnik, a Russian national wanted in the US for alleged bitcoin fraud. Russia is also seeking his extradition on fraud charges.

The court ruled on Wednesday that Vinnik should be extradited from Greece – where he was vacationing with his family in July before being arrested by local authorities – to the US who filed the request.

All Vinnik’s devices, including his laptop, tablet and mobile phones seized after the arrest, should also be handed over to the US under the court ruling, RIA Novosti reported.

The man was taken to Greek custody following a US arrest warrant alleging that he engaged in money laundering and was running “one of the most important websites of electronic crime in the world,” as authorities stated.

The US claims Vinnik had 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 money laundering.

On Wednesday, Vinnik said he has no connection to the charges.

“I’m not an owner, an executive or an accountant. I’m a technical expert, independent technical expert,” he argued, as cited by RIA Novosti.

One of Vinnik’s lawyers, Timofey Musatov, said the court’s ruling to extradite the Russian was of political nature, adding he believes his client will not be sent to the US.

Another lawyer, Ilias Spirliadis, told TASS that Vinnik’s defense has already appealed to Greece’s Supreme Court. The lawyers expected the extradition ruling to come “as there’s nothing new in it,” he said.

“We hope and we know that the Supreme Court will hear the entire case more thoroughly and will look at it more objectively.”

Vinnik’s wife Aleksandra earlier told RT the charges are based on a statement that the BTC-e “operated without a license, avoided controls to prevent money laundering” and that its managers knew “they were creating a platform” for illicit schemes.

“Because such business models allow criminals to use the exchange… By this way of thinking you could make the manufacturers of frying pans guilty because wives hit their husbands with them. It’s the same thing,” she says.

Her husband rejected voluntary extradition to the US because he maintains his innocence of any wrongdoing, the wife explained.

“Secondly, I don’t understand what the US has to do with me and why they would put a Russian national on trial,” Aleksandr Vinnik added.

“It’s weird that a Russian citizen will be tried in the US for some reason,” Aleksandra said. “He didn’t run a business in America, he’s not even been there, where is the common sense? Probably, the US could have requested Russia, not Greece about his extradition, as he is a Russian citizen.”

Meanwhile, Russian prosecutors alleged Vinnik stole 600,000 rubles ($10,500) from an unidentified entity “using the means of deception and the internet.” In mid-August, Russia’s authorities also charged him on fraud issuing a wanted person notice. Now this extradition request is also pending a decision by a Greek court. Vinnik does not object to being extradited to Russia.