Greece flies Russian money launderer to US: lawyer
Greece has extradited a Russian money launderer to the US, hours after his release from a French jail, his lawyer said Friday.
Zoe Konstantopoulou said Alexander Vinnik “was loaded onto a private plane to the US” without being allowed to lodge an asylum request in Greece.
A source with knowledge of the case in France said Vinnik had been handed back to Greek authorities on Thursday afternoon, just weeks after the Court of Cassation in Paris confirmed his five-year sentence for money laundering.
Vinnik, 43, had been in French custody for the past two years following his extradition from Greece.
The father-of-two has been the subject of a long legal wrangle between Greece, France, Russia and the United States.
Vinnik’s French lawyer, Frederic Belot, said Washington appeared to have exerted significant pressure to secure his extradition.
He said his client was sent to San Francisco via Boston and faces 55 years in prison in the US.
“After more than five years of litigation… 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,” US Assistant Attorney General Kenneth Polite said in a Justice Department statement.
According to the indictment, BTC-e was a “significant cybercrime and online money laundering entity”, which allowed users to trade with high levels of anonymity and “developed a customer base heavily reliant on criminal activity.”
The Russian foreign ministry condemned the move, saying: “We are outraged by the Greek authorities’ unfriendly actions” and pledging to stand up for Vinnik’s interests.
“Russian diplomats will do everything possible to protect his legitimate rights and interests.”
Vinnik was originally arrested in July 2017 in the northern Greek tourist resort of Halkidiki. A long judicial procedure followed, with Greece sifting through the conflicting extradition requests before deciding in favour of France.
A French court in 2020 sentenced Vinnik to five years in prison for money laundering but cleared him of an original charge of defrauding nearly 200 people using ransomware. His sentence was confirmed by the French Court of Cassation in June.
A US indictment accuses Vinnik of 21 charges ranging from identity theft and facilitating drug trafficking to money laundering.
In Russia, he is wanted on lesser fraud charges involving just 9,500 euros.