Greece has suspended the extradition of the man supposedly behind BTC-e, a US$4 billion Bitcoin money laundering operation.


Justice may move slowly, but it does continue to move. Then there are times when it grinds to a halt. The United States has sought the extradition of Alexander Vinnik for quite some time. Vinnik is reportedly the ringleader of the BTC-e platform that U.S. authorities say was a Bitcoin money-laundering ring that is responsible for laundering a staggering $4 billion. The top court in Greece had given approval for Vinnik to be extradited to the U.S. back in December 2017, but the court has recently suspended that extradition until another appeal can be heard.

From Russia with Bitcoin

The extradition was put on hold due to the deteriorating health of Vinnik. He had previously gone on a hunger strike that lasted 88 days when the Greek top court initially ruled against him. Vinnik’s lawyer, Zoe Costantopoulou, said that the current suspension was “a recognition of the risk he faces if he is extradited.”

Vinnik has fought extradition, saying that he is innocent of the money laundering charges leveled by the U.S. authorities. The United States maintains that BTC-e helped facilitate illegal activities like narcotic sales and computer hacking. Vinnik says he was not the operator of BTC-e but rather a technical consultant.

Truly a Wanted Man

Alexander Vinnik, a Russian national, is actually wanted by multiple countries. The Greek court had approved his extradition to France, which is where he was scheduled to be sent. After France was done with him, he was then to be sent to the United States.

However, Russia has also sought to have Vinnik extradited from Greece. Russia has made it a practice to seek the extradition of Russian nationals who are wanted by the United States. The charges Vinnik faces in Russia are far less severe than those in the United States. He only faces fraud charges that amount to a mere 100,000 euros, a far cry from $4 billion in Bitcoin money laundering.

Vinnik has asked to be extradited to Russia. His lawyer says being sent to the United States would amount to a “death sentence.”

As for now, no timetable has been set for Vinnik’s appeal to be heard. He is currently residing at a hospital in Athens due to health problems caused by his hunger strike.