A Greek court approved Russia’s extradition request for alleged BTC-e operator and bitcoin launderer Alexander Vinnik, throwing his judicial future into question.
As CCN has reported, Vinnik — a 37-year-old Russian national — was arrested in July while vacationing in Greece in connection with alleged financial crimes he committed while operating bitcoin exchange BTC-e.
Earlier this month, a three-judge panel approved a request to extradite him to the U.S., where a grand jury has indicted him on 21 counts, including orchestrating a $4 billion bitcoin laundering operation connected to the infamous collapse of bitcoin exchange Mt. Gox.
However, regional Russian media sources report that a separate panel of Greek judges met this week to consider a Russian request to extradite him to his native country, where he is accused of obtaining 667,000 rubles (~$11,500) through fraudulent means.
Vinnik and his lawyers have argued that he should stand trial in Russia, not the U.S. Likewise, Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs rebuked the Greek court for agreeing to the U.S. extradition request. Vinnik has appealed the U.S. extradition order to the Supreme Court of Greece but has stated that he will voluntarily comply with the Russian request.
Regardless of the Supreme Court’s decision, the ultimate arbiter of Vinnik’s fate will be Nikos Paraskevopoulous, the Greek Minister of Justice, who has the unilateral authority to decide whether to sign extradition orders. That said, the Supreme Court ruling will likely play a role in Paraskevopolus’s decision.
Either way, Vinnik denies the charges against him. He says that he was merely a technician hired by the exchange, while BTC-e denied he was ever employed by the company. In past interviews, Vinnik’s wife suggested that U.S. authorities hope to exploit his technical and intellectual abilities, which is why they have gone to such great lengths to extradite him to the U.S. Others have theorized the U.S. desires to make an example of out of him, much as they did with Silk Road operator Ross Ulbricht.