Alexander Vinnik – a man accused of bitcoin fraud – will be extradited to France, according to the justice minister of Greece.
Vinnik Will Face French Lawmakers
Konstantinos Tsiaras has recently signed an order requiring that the alleged Russian cryptocurrency scammer be sent to the country though at press time, no extradition date has been set.
Vinnik has been accused of laundering billions of dollars in cryptocurrency funds. He was arrested in 2017 while on vacation in Greece per the request of legislators in the United States. Both America and Russia have requested that Vinnik be extradited to their regions so he may face trial and judgement. U.S. regulators claim that Vinnik may have laundered as much as $4 billion worth of bitcoins through a digital exchange called BTC-e.
Right now, it appears France has earned the number one spot in terms of extradition territory. The U.S. placed second, while Russia is third. Vinnik claims he is innocent, and his lawyers are working to appeal the decision.
Russian authorities are not happy that Russia was not chosen as the region for which Vinnik must return. The Russian embassy in Athens, Greece released a statement explaining:
We regret that the fully substantiated request made by the Russian general prosecutor’s office for the extradition of Alexander Vinnik to his country of nationality was ignored.
It is alleged that BTC-e was a breeding ground for criminal activity. It is said in court documents that the exchange likely facilitated payments and money transfers for cyberthieves and attained money garnered via hackings and digital attacks, along with ransomware and identity theft schemes. Founded in 2011, BTC-e didn’t last long and was ultimately closed in the year 2017.
The U.S. believes that Vinnik may have served as a technical consultant to the crypto exchange, though Vinnik is denying he worked in any such role. He further claims he was unaware that the trading platform was engaged in illegal activity. Upon his arrest, Vinnik began a hunger strike as a means of getting himself released from prison – a tactic that failed to make any mark on law officials. He is presently under the care of doctors at a state hospital in Greece’s capital.
Crypto Crime Is Growing Heavily
2019 has been a year of heavy crypto exchange-related crime. Arguably the biggest example is Quadriga CX, the ill-fated trading platform in Canada that’s currently facing a class-action suit. The bad news broke out for Quadriga when its CEO Gerald Cotten passed away in India earlier in the year. As the only person with the private keys necessary for accessing customer funds, users’ money remains locked away, and customers are unable to withdraw their money.
After Cotten’s alleged passing, new evidence emerged to suggest that the executive may have embezzled user funds in the past.