Vinnik to Be Extradited to France

Alleged BTC-e exchange operator and money launderer Alexander Vinnik is being extradited to France.

Vinnik’s extradition has been sought by the governments of the U.S., Russia and France. Vinnik himself had said he wanted to see trial in Russia.
The news was made public by the Russian embassy in Greece, the country in which he has been held since his arrest in July 2017 over allegations he had laundered at least $4 billion through the BTC-e bitcoin exchange.

The embassy told state-owned Russian news agency RIA Novosti on Friday it regrets Greece has not granted Russia’s requests for the extradition of Vinnik.

«At the first stage, Vinnik will be extradited to France. We informed Moscow about this. We are sorry to see that the reasonable request from Russia’s Prosecutor General about Vinnik’s extradition to his country of citizenship was ignored,» the embassy representative said.

The Greek minister of justice made the decision to extradite Vinnik to France, according to the embassy.

RIA Novosti also reports Vinnik has now gone on a hunger strike to protest the extradition decision.

He previously went on a hunger strike for 100 days in 2018 over claims his rights were being violated, RIA reported. Vinnik has maintained he is innocent of all charges, claiming he was just an employee at the exchange.

CoinDesk has reached out to Vinnik’s attorney but had not received a reply by press time.

The decision to extradite the Russian to France was reportedly made last summer, but Russia has been fighting the move. Russian President Vladimir Putin had even raised he subject with the Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras last December, as per another report from RIA Novosti.

France has been seeking Vinnik’s extradition over alleged cybercrime, money laundering, membership in a criminal organization and extortion, according to Associated Press.

The U.S. Department of Justice levied a $110 million fine against BTC-e and a $12 million penalty against Vinnik in July 2017.

Alleged Architects of $720M BitClub Ponzi Request Jail Release Over Coronavirus Risk
Two men accused of defrauding investors of $722 million in a crypto mining pool scam have requested an early release from jail on the grounds the coronavirus poses a risk to their health.

In emergency motions for release to the U.S. District Court covering New Jersey, Matthew Goettsche and Jobadiah Weeks argue they should be temporarily released from an Essex County (N.J) Correctional Facility as the chances of contracting coronavirus are higher in an enclosed jail environment.

«While the harsh realities of COVID-19 affect the world at large, the risks presented by the virus are particularly acute for inmates. Conditions of pretrial confinement have proven time and time again to create the ideal environment for the transmission of contagious disease,» Goettsche says in a letter to the federal court.

Goettsche and Weeks founded the BitClub Network, a bitcoin mining pool that claimed to have multiple mining operations, in 2014. U.S. authorities accused them of falsifying earnings figures to defraud investors out of a total of $722 million and formally charged them with committing wire fraud and conspiracy to offer unregistered securities in December.

In their submissions this month, Goettsche and Weeks argue they are unable to follow medical advice in jail because hand sanitizer is a controlled substance, and inmates are frequently in close proximity to one another. Weeks added that Essex County already has an «exceptionally poor record of maintaining detainee health» and that its measures to prevent a coronavirus outbreak did little to protect the health of inmates.

Confinement in these circumstances will place greater restrictions on contact with their legal team, which could severely hamper their ability to prepare a defense ahead of trial, they add.

Being accused of non-violent crimes, both Goettsche and Weeks say they would not pose any risk to society for the duration of their release. The pair also say they are unlikely to flee justice due to international travel bans and the fact their passports have already been confiscated.

Last week, a New York judge granted a motion for temporary release for another individual on the grounds that crowded detention centers allowed the virus to spread more easily. In his submission, Weeks argues he is at particular risk because he is a lifelong asthma sufferer.

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