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7 Dec, 2020 18:38

Russian man wanted by Moscow, Paris & Washington handed five year sentence by French court for laundering bitcoin on behalf of mob

Russian man wanted by Moscow, Paris & Washington handed five year sentence by French court for laundering bitcoin on behalf of mob

A Russian cryptocurrency entrepreneur has been sentenced by a French court to five years in prison and handed a hefty fine after it found him guilty of money laundering. Alexander Vinnik is also wanted by Washington and Moscow.

The Russian citizen was arrested in Greece in 2017 on a request from the US, which sought his extradition over money laundering and fraud charges. While in custody, Russia and France filed their own requests to have him handed over on different charges, but Paris’ bid to try him carried more weight with its fellow EU member.

On Monday, a French court sentenced Vinnik to a five-year prison term and a 100,000 euro ($121,000) fine for money laundering. French prosecutors also accused him of creating a ransomware program called Locky and laundering proceeds from extortion through his cryptocurrency operation. Some 200 companies in France were allegedly victims of the scheme, but that charge didn’t stick.

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The time that Vinnik has already spent in custody will be deducted from the term, which effectively means he has to serve about a year and a half, his lawyer Frederic Belot said. His defense intends to appeal the outcome of the trial, which means that he would not be extradited to any other nation for at least several more months while the appeal is being processed

Vinnik is still wanted for his other alleged crimes. The US accuses him of laundering bitcoin stolen from Mt. Gox in a high-profile theft which sank the Japanese cryptocurrency exchange in 2014. Russia wants him for alleged computer-related fraud.

When he was held in Greek custody at a jail in Thessaloniki and the US, Russia and France were pressing competing claims for him, he said he wanted to be extradited to his home country. Athens handed him over to Paris in January, while court proceedings in his case took place in late October.

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Vinnik is said to be a co-owner of the now-defunct cryptocurrency platform BTC-e, which was allegedly used to launder proceeds for various criminal organizations. He denied any wrongdoing and said he was merely a technical specialist providing his computer expertise to the actual owners of the enterprise.

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