After spending 30 months in detention, Greek authorities have lastly extradited the Russian nationwide and alleged Bitcoin (BTC) cash launderer Alexander Vinnik to France. Prosecutors in France are charging Vinnik, operator of the defunct BTC-e crypto trade, with a number of counts of cash laundering, extortion and conspiracy.
Vinnik additionally has pending extradition requests from each Russia and the US. The alleged Bitcoin felony has beforehand acknowledged his choice for extradition to his native homeland, which Greek officers have turned down.
Thus, after the conclusion of his trial in France, Vinnik will return to Greece to face one other extradition to the U.S. The U.S. State Division reportedly desires to query Vinnik in reference to the Mt. Gox hack and subsequent theft of 300,000 BTC allegedly traced to Vinnik’s private crypto pockets. Reviews additionally counsel that Russian state brokers funneled cash by way of BTC-e to fund interference within the U.S. 2016 presidential elections.
Amid the three-way diplomatic tussle, Vinnik’s authorized group mentioned that its consumer has been subjected to gross human rights abuses. Vinnik’s legal professionals have additionally accused prosecutors of working to maintain their consumer in detention with out expenses or a trial whereas stopping him from having any contact with members of his household.
Vinnik’s protection legal professionals additionally allude to the prosecution being sponsored by political and enterprise pursuits based mostly on their consumer’s involvement in crypto and blockchain know-how. The previous BTC-e chief is one of some crypto personalities to have run-ins with the regulation, very like Silk Street creator Ross Ulbricht, who’s presently serving a double life sentence for operating a darknet drug market.
Alleged human rights abuses amid Vinnik’s two-year detention
In a cellphone name with Cointelegraph, Zoe Konstantopoulou, one among Vinnik’s legal professionals, leveled allegations of human rights abuses towards the Greek authorities. Commenting on the dimensions of those infringements, Konstantopoulou revealed:
“Alexander has been topic to arbitrary detention for 30 months, which is prohibited by the Greek structure. Throughout this era, he has been made to endure merciless and inhuman therapy from the authorities.”
In line with Konstantopoulou, Vinnik is being held with out trial or expenses and within the absence of any courtroom orders. Konstantopoulou has additionally claimed that the case towards Vinnik has some political undertones with vested pursuits in Greece, France and the U.S. trying to punish the previous BTC-e operator.
When requested in regards to the impact of those alleged maltreatments on Vinnik’s well being, Konstantopoulou revealed that the well being standing of the Russian nationwide continues to deteriorate. “Alexander is presently on the 44th day of his starvation strike in protest of the gross human rights violations suffered by the hands of the authorities in Greece,” she revealed throughout a name with Cointelegraph.
Other than the alleged maltreatment, Vinnik’s lawyer additionally revealed that Greek regulation enforcement was stopping any contact between the previous BTC-e operator and his household. In line with Konstantopoulou:
“Greek regulation enforcement isn’t permitting Alexander to see his household, even his spouse who has been identified with mind most cancers.”
In a non-public notice to Cointelegraph on the Vinnik case, Yusaku Senga, CEO of cross-blockchain swap platform Swingby, mentioned crypto personalities accused of wrongdoing normally endure harsher punishments than their counterparts in mainstream finance. In line with Senga:
“If we take a look at the prosecution of Charlie Shrem and evaluate it degree of prosecution introduced towards Goldman Sachs and its senior administrators for his or her involvement within the large scale of cash laundering and embezzlement within the 1MDB scandal in Malaysia, it’s onerous to not argue that crypto advocates and entrepreneurs are being rather more harshly persecuted.”
Like Vinnik, Charlie Shrem was additionally related to one other crypto trade, BitInstant. U.S. authorities arrested Shrem in 2014, charged him with cash laundering and sentenced him to 2 years in jail.
Timeline of Vinnik’s prosecution
In July 2017, Greek police arrested Vinnik whereas on trip together with his household within the vacationer village of Ouranoupoli. Thus started the over two-year authorized battle that has stored the Russian nationwide behind bars whereas three totally different nations jostle for Vinnik’s extradition so he can face felony expenses.
Shortly after his arrest, the U.S. filed an extradition request and appeared to achieve success in pushing for Vinnik’s switch stateside. By September, officers in Moscow additionally requested Vinnik’s extradition to Russia.
By 2018, France entered the fray, turning the case right into a diplomatic three-way tussle. Greek police additionally revealed an assassination plot with suspected Russian criminals reportedly intent on stopping Vinnik’s return to the nation.
In mid-December 2019, Greek judicial authorities lastly moved to extradite Vinnik to France to await trial. Firstly of the yr, Vinnik’s case entered a brand new part together with his extradition to France. Authorities within the nation have already leveled cash laundering and conspiracy expenses towards him.
Vinnik’s authorized troubles stem from his alleged involvement within the BTC-e crypto trade. Launched in 2011, the defunct platform noticed little in the way in which of crypto buying and selling exercise till Mt. Gox — the market chief on the time — fell into monetary bother following one of many greatest Bitcoin trade hacks in historical past.
Associated: Crypto Change Hacks in Assessment
With Mt. Gox out of the way in which, BTC-e grew exponentially, accounting for about 15% of all U.S. dollar-denominated Bitcoin buying and selling exercise by late 2016. Regardless of being a serious participant within the crypto buying and selling house on the time, BTC-e had little in the way in which of Know Your Buyer and anti-money laundering protocols.
Thus, the platform reportedly turned a well-liked channel for funneling “soiled cash.” Mt. Gox hackers allegedly used the trade to launder 300,000 BTC, the precise quantity of which was additionally present in Vinnik’s pockets.
Other than the cash laundering, a number of regulation enforcement authorities say BTC-e changed Silk Street because the channel for illicit offers with many customers of the platform partaking in drug trafficking and gross sales of different banned or regulated items.
Regarding Bitcoin and felony actions
Crypto critics normally espouse the identical rhetoric of digital currencies as being channels for on-line felony actions. Many monetary regulators and governments against or eager on strictly regulating the cryptocurrency business normally tout the identical chorus of digital currencies enabling tax evasion, cash laundering and terrorist financing, to say a number of.
The counter-argument provided by crypto proponents is that Bitcoin and different cryptocurrencies solely account for a small portion of worldwide monetary crimes. A January 2020 report by blockchain analytics agency Chainalysis revealed that crypto funds on the darknet accounted for 0.08% of all digital forex transactions in 2019.