The US Department of Justice (DOJ) announced on Friday that Alexander Vinnik, a 42-year-old Russian national, was extradited from Greece to the United States to face multiple charges related to money laundering and operating an illegal cryptocurrency exchange.
Vinnik first ran into legal trouble with the Department of Justice in 2017 for allegedly operating the now-defunct crypto trading platform BTC-e in the US without proper authorization and helping criminals launder at least $4 billion through Bitcoin.
A fight for the version
In the same year, he was arrested in Greece at the request of the American government. After his arrest, Vinnik’s assets, valued at $90 million, were were confiscated from the police to the New Zealand Police. At the time, authorities noted that BTC-e allegedly lacked anti-money laundering policies, thereby facilitating a range of cybercrimes including money laundering, ransomware attacks, fraud, theft and drug crimes.
In January 2020, the 42-year-old was then was issued in France after a years-long extradition dispute between Russia, France and the United States.
After his extradition to France, Vinnik denied the allegations and asked to be transferred to Russia, where he faces lesser criminal charges involving about $11,000. His request was rejected by a Paris-based judge, who ruled that he will face charges in France for defrauding at least 100 people through ransomware between 2016 and 2018.
In December 2020, French prosecutors sentenced Vinnik to five years in prison for money laundering. However, he was acquitted of the original allegation that he had defrauded people through ransomware.
US extradits Vinnik from Greece
On Thursday, the criminal was taken back to Greece and extradited to the US. He now faces 21 charges, including operating a money services business without a license, conspiracy to launder money, money laundering and illegal money transactions.
“After more than five years of litigation, Russian national Alexander Vinnik was extradited to the United States yesterday to face charges for running BTC-e, a criminal cryptocurrency exchange, which netted more than $4 billion in criminal proceeds.” he said Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite, Jr. of the Criminal Division of the Ministry of Justice.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Homeland Security Investigations and the US Secret Service’s Criminal Investigation Division are still investigating the case. Vinnick faces up to 50 years in a US prison if convicted.
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