Greek Supreme Court Approves Russian Request for Bitcoin Suspect

Greece’s Supreme Court on Friday said a Russian held in Greece for allegedly laundering $4 billion using the bitcoin digital currency should be extradited to Russia, a court source said.

Alexander Vinnik, who headed bitcoin exchange BTC-e, has been held in jail since his arrest last July in the northern Greek tourist resort of Halkidiki.

The final decision is up to the Greek justice minister.

Vinnik has said he would accept extradition to Russia, where he is wanted on fraud charges totalling 9,500 euros ($11,000).

The United States and France are also seeking his extradition to face far more extensive fraud charges than in Russia.

A US court indicted Vinnik last year on 21 charges ranging from identity theft and facilitating drug trafficking to money laundering.

The US Treasury Department has slapped BTC-e with a $110 million fine for “wilfully violating” US anti-money laundering laws. Vinnik himself has been ordered to pay $12 million.

The Greek Supreme Court in December had said Vinnik should be extradited to the US.

The French warrant says Vinnik had defrauded over 100 people in six French cities between 2016 and 2018.

BTC-e, founded in 2011, became one of the world’s largest and most widely used digital currency exchanges.

According to the US indictment, it was “heavily reliant on criminals”.

In addition, BTC-e “was noted for its role in numerous ransomware and other cyber-criminal activity”.

It allegedly received more than $4 billion worth of Bitcoin over the course of its operation.

Vinnik was also charged with receiving funds from the infamous hack of Mt. Gox — an earlier digital currency exchange that eventually failed, in part due to losses attributable to hacking.

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© AFP 2018

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