The Russian national who is facing crypto-related charges in the Northern District Court of California is reportedly being extradited from Greece to the US.
Alexander Vinnik is known as the operator of BTC-e, a multibillion-dollar cryptocurrency exchange with alleged ties to criminal organizations.
Vinnik is accused of laundering funds from the infamous hack of the now-defunct digital asset exchange Mt. Gox through various exchanges, including BTC-e.
Vinnik was arrested in Greece in 2017 and extradited to France, where he was sentenced to five years in prison for money laundering. The United States and Russia both filed extradition requests from Greece, but the US is getting custody of Vinnik based on recent developments.
Citing Frédéric Bélot, Vinnik’s lawyer in France, CNN reports that the accused is already onboard a plane from Athens, Greece to the US as of Thursday afternoon and will have an initial court appearance in the Northern District of California.
Vinnik also co-founded BTC-e’s successor Wex, which reportedly handed $450 million worth of investors’ crypto assets to Russia’s intelligence agency, the Federal Security Service (FSB).
Says then chief of Internal Revenue Service’s Criminal Investigation (CI) Division Don Fort when Vinnik and BTC-e were indicted in 2017,
“Mr. Vinnik is alleged to have committed and facilitated a wide range of crimes that go far beyond the lack of regulation of the Bitcoin exchange he operated. Through his actions, it is alleged that he stole identities, facilitated drug trafficking, and helped to launder criminal proceeds from syndicates around the world.”
Exchanges like this are not only illegal, but they are a breeding ground for stolen identity refund fraud schemes and other types of tax fraud. When there is no regulation and criminals are left unchecked, this scenario is all too common. The takedown of this large virtual currency exchange should send a strong message to cyber-criminals and other unregulated exchanges across the globe.”
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