Greek Court Approves U.S. Extradition of Suspect in Cryptocurrency Crime

Published: 04 October 2017

bitcoin-2007912 960 720Michael Wuensch

By Renée Picard

A Greek court gave the green light Wednesday for the extradition of Russian bitcoin fraud suspect Alexander Vinnik to the United States, Reuters reported.

The panel of three judges ruled 37-year-old Vinnik’s extradition to the U.S. amidst another extradition request from Russia on separate charges. In the U.S., Vinnik could face up to 55 years in prison. Vinnik’s lawyers immediately acted upon his right to appeal to Greece’s Supreme Court.

The United States first indicted Vinnik on July 26 for, “for operating an unlicensed money service business, money laundering, and related crimes,” according to the Department of Justice.

“Through his actions, it is alleged that he stole identities, facilitated drug trafficking, and helped to launder criminal proceeds from syndicates around the world,” said IRS Criminal Investigation Chief Don Fort in the DOJ statement. A U.S. warrant lead to his July 25th arrest while he was on vacation in Greece.

Vinnik allegedly operated the digital currency exchange BTC-e, connected to the laundering of more than US$ 4 billion for individuals involved in criminal activity. U.S. authorities also accuse him of laundering funds obtained from the 2014 collapse of the Japan-based exchange Mt. Gox.

The investigation of Vinnik’s case comes at a time when dialogues over cryptocurrency are conflicting and rampant. In September, the Chinese government made moves to stifle bitcoin trade, while Japan authorities encouraged cryptocurrency activity by giving licenses to 11 new exchanges. In the United States, the Securities and Exchange Commission warned investors in July of the risk of being exposed to fraud when using cryptocurrency for crowdfunding.

On Wednesday, Vinnik told judges, “I have nothing to do with what I am accused of,” The Washington Post reported. Along with his direct denial of the charges, he claimed he was just a technician uninvolved in the operations of BTC-e, and the laptop confiscated during his arrest merely housed cartoons for his children.

Following the court’s decision, Vinnik’s lawyer added, “We have faith in the Greek justice system and a long road ahead of us,” Reuters reported.