Alleged BTC-e exchange operator Alexander Vinnik, who is accused of laundering billions of dollars, is officially seeking extradition to Russia.
According to a report from local news source e-Kathimerini on Thursday, Vinnik, a Russian national, has filed an appeal in a Piraeus city court for release or extradition to his home nation for humanitarian reasons.
Vinnik was arrested in Greece back in July 2017, after police alleged that he had laundered at least $4 billion in cash through a bitcoin platform since 2011. He was detained for money laundering, conspiracy and transacting in cash obtained through illegal means.
To date, Vinnik has maintained that he is innocent of all charges. He once said: “I do not consider myself guilty … The fact that I worked for BTC-e and did my job, and it’s not justifiable to accuse me of it.”
Vinnik has been on a hunger strike for 90 days, according to the report from e-Kathimerini, and was transported to the court by ambulance.
Vinnik’s lawyers say his life is "at risk" and maintain that the charges against him are "unfounded," e-Kathimerini writes. They have also criticized the Greek justice system for detaining him for "more than the maximum 18 months permitted for pre-trial detention."
The U.S. Department of Justice levied a $110 million fine against BTC-e and a $12 million penalty against Vinnik back in July 2017. If convicted in the U.S., Vinnik could face up to 55 years in prison.
Earlier this month, WEX, the apparent successor to the shuttered BTC-e exchange, was again tied to illicit funds gained through ransomware attacks. "Big Four" consulting firm PwC said that two Iranians who have created the SamSam ransomware variant are tied to WEX and may have used it to launder millions in illegal earnings.
Alexander Vinnik image via Shutterstock
The leader in news and information on cryptocurrency, digital assets and the future of money, CoinDesk is a media outlet that strives for the highest journalistic standards and abides by a strict set of editorial policies. CoinDesk is an independent operating subsidiary of Digital Currency Group, which invests in cryptocurrencies and blockchain startups. As part of their compensation, certain CoinDesk employees, including editorial employees, may receive exposure to DCG equity in the form of stock appreciation rights, which vest over a multi-year period. CoinDesk journalists are not allowed to purchase stock outright in DCG.