Russian National Extradited to the U.S. to Face Crypto Money Laundering Charges

Alexander Vinnik, a Russian national accused of running an illegal crypto exchange BTC-e was extradited to the United States to face fraud charges. 


In a statement, Kenneth A. Polite Jr., an assistant attorney, pointed out:

“After more than five years of litigation, Russian national Alexander Vinnik was extradited to the United States yesterday to be held accountable for operating BTC-e, a criminal cryptocurrency exchange, which laundered more than $4 billion of criminal proceeds.”

He added:

 “This extradition demonstrates the Department’s commitment to investigating and dismantling illicit cyber activity and would not have been possible without the relentless work of the Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs.”

Following a 21-count superseding indictment charge in January 2017, Vinnik was put into custody in Greece in July 2017 based on a request made by the U.S.


The indictment noted that Vinnik, with his co-conspirators, administered, operated, and owned BTC-e, a significant online money laundering and cybercrime entity that permitted Bitcoin trading among users. 


The report noted:

“The indictment alleges BTC-e facilitated transactions for cybercriminals worldwide and received criminal proceeds from numerous computer intrusions and hacking incidents, ransomware scams, identity theft schemes, corrupt public officials, and narcotics distribution rings.”

During the course of operation,  BTC-e received Bitcoin worth more than $4 billion. Furthermore, it enhanced crimes ranging from drug trafficking to public corruption, tax refund fraud schemes, identity theft, and computer hacking. 


In December 2020, Vinnik was imprisoned for five years by a Parisian court, Blockchain.News reported.


At the time, he was sentenced for money laundering as part of an organized criminal group and for providing false information about the origin of the proceeds. He was also accused of extortion and numerous cybercrimes.

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Russian Alexander Vinnik Remained To Jail Five Years For Money-laundering

Russian IT specialist Alexander Vinnik, who convicted guilty in France on money laundering charges, remained to be jail for five years in prison. However, the Court of Appeal of Paris exempted him from a fine of 100,000 euros.

According to a report by the Russian state-backed media TAAS, the Paris court rejected several requests from Vinnik’s defence team. The court eventually upheld the original five-year imprisonment to BTC-e operator Alexander Vinnik but exempted him from a fine of 100,000 euros worth $119,400. Earlier, the prosecution service asked for a minor penalty, expressing doubts that Vinnik would pay it to the injured parties.

Vinnick’s lawyer, Frédéric Bélot, worried about another trial from Greek jurisdiction after Vinnik completed his sentences before facing similar charges and extradition to the United States.

Vinnik was arrested in Greece in July 2017, being allegedly involved in money laundering activities. After a legal tug-of-war for two years, Vinnik was extradited to France from Greece at the request of the United States. In January 2020, French authorities filed preliminary charges of extortion and money laundering against Vinnik.

Reportedly, the U.S.-based BTC-e and cybercriminals used BTC-e to launder the profits generated by various criminal activities, including theft, drug crimes, ransomware attacks, corruption, computer hacking, and fraud. The amount involved is as high as 4 to 9 billion USD.

And in December of 2020, the Paris court ruled that Vinnik/BTC-e had found guilty of money laundering as part of an organized crime group. Alexander Vinnik sentenced to prison and a fine.

Earlier, Alexander Vinnik was on a hunger strike to protest against his extradition to France; the U.S., on the other hand, is also actively seeking to extradite Vinnick. Meanwhile, Russia filed an extradition request on humanitarian grounds.

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French court sentences BTC-e operator Alexander Vinnik to 5 years

A court of appeals in Paris has upheld the five-year prison term in the case against BTC-e operator Alexander Vinnik.

The court upheld a December 2020 verdict and prison sentence, finding that Vinnik/BTC-e had committed money laundering as part of an organized criminal group, and provided false information about the origin of the proceeds.

The Parisian court dismissed several requests from Vinnik’s defense team, including asking to examine copies of the evidence provided by the FBI. The court also exempted Vinnik from a fine of 100,000 Euros which originally accompanied the December sentence.

Vinnik was originally charged with defrauding nearly 200 people using ransomware, but the court cleared him of the malware attack charges in December. The prosecution service had asked for a smaller fine, expressing doubts that he would be able to pay out the victims of his crimes, according to Russian state news outlet TAAS.

The defense team plans to file a cassation appeal within five days as required by French law.

The Russian computer specialist was originally detained while vacationing in Greece during July 2017 at the request of the United States. He is accused by the U.S. of laundering more than $4 billion while operating the now-defunct crypto exchange BTC-e.

In January 2020, Vinnik was extradited to France, where he was sentenced to five years in prison in December. Vinnik’s lawyer, Frédéric Bélot, fears that Greek authorities may want him returned to Greece after the sentence to face extradition to the United States on similar charges.

Russia has also filed an extradition request citing humanitarian grounds. After Vinnik went on hunger strike in Greece in November 2018, Russian human rights ombudswoman, Tatiana Moskalkova, sought the assistance of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to vouch for Vinnik to be returned to Russia. At the time, she emphasized the deteriorating health of both Vinnik and his wife, who had been diagnosed with brain cancer.

Related: BTC-e’s Vinnik Case Drags on as New Accusations Continue Emerging

However, it has been reported that Russia’s extradition request may be motivated by preventing sensitive data regarding its intelligence operations from falling into the hands of foreign adversaries, with some analysts suggesting Russian intelligence agencies may have used BTC-e to acquire Bitcoin for classified operations.

If extradited, Vinnik would face the lighter charges of “fraud in the field of computer information” in Russia.