France Seeks To Extradite Bitcoin Fraud Suspect Alexander Vinnik

Crime, News | June 29, 2018 By:

France is seeking the extradition of Alexander Vinnik, the alleged mastermind of a $4 billion bitcoin laundering ring who was arrested in northern Greece last summer.

In July 2017, Vinnik was arrested by Greek authorities acting on behalf of the US government. At the time, the US Department of Justice identified Vinnik as the “operator” of the BTC-e exchange, which allegedly functioned as a clearing house for illicit funds sourced from “computer intrusions and hacking incidents, ransomware scams, identity theft schemes, corrupt public officials, and narcotics distribution rings.” He was charged of identity theft, facilitating drug trafficking and money-laundered funds that he allegedly partly obtained by hacking the now-defunct bitcoin exchange Mt. Gox.

Since then, Russian and American officials have demanded the Greek Supreme Court to extradite Vinnik to their respective countries. Vinnik fought hard against extradition to the US, deploying an expensive team of Greek criminal attorneys before the court. Vinnik has said he is willing to be extradited to his home country of Russia, where he is sought on less serious charges.

The Associated Press reported that France requested to put Vinnik on trial for alleged cybercrime, money laundering, membership in a criminal organization and extortion. French authorities allege that Vinnik remained in charge of his bitcoin platform even while incarcerated in Greece and that it was used to facilitate cyberfraud attacks that targeted thousands of people worldwide, including about a hundred French nationals.

According to reports, despite going offline following the arrest in July and fine announcements, BTC-e ultimately re-emerged under the name WEX in mid-September. At the time, WEX claimed that it was unrelated to the BTC-e exchange.

Ilias Spyrliadis, Vinnik’s lawyer said the three competing extradition bids made for a highly complex situation.

“A legal issue that will require our attention is which (extradition request) will have priority, as they are based on two international arrest warrants and one European arrest warrant,” Spyrliadis said.