Alexander Vinnik’s U.S. Extradition Hearing Held Today at Thessaloniki
Alexander Vinnik, who was arrested in Greece two months ago on counts of money laundering and involvement in the Mt. Gox hack, appeared today for a hearing regarding his possible extradition to the United States.
Alexander Vinnik was reported to have appeared today for a hearing in Thessaloniki, Greece, in regards to a possible extradition to the United States on account of his alleged involvement in cyber crimes and money laundering to the tune of billions of dollars.
Vinnik was arrested in Greece two months ago, in July, as he became a wanted man in the United States following a Department of Justice (DOJ) backed indictment.
According to the U.S. DOJ, Alexander Vinnik has been charged with 21 counts of money laundering and other cyber crimes including running unlicensed money transfer services and a role in the infamous Mt. Gox hack that resulted in over 630,000 Bitcoins being siphoned off from the Japan-based exchange that handled over 70% of all Bitcoin transactions in 2014.
Vinnik’s arrest was also linked to one of the largest Bitcoin exchanges – BTC-e, which went offline shortly afterwards.
Many believed that Vinnik was perhaps the administrator of BTC-e, an exchange which started back in 2010 and was believed to be operating from Russia.
Even though BTC-e denied having any links to Vinnik, it became clear that the exchange was facing a U.S. led investigation as announced in a press release by the U.S. Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN):
“BTC-e ... was heavily reliant on criminals, including by not requiring users to validate their identity, obscuring and anonymizing transactions and source of funds, and by lacking any anti-money laundering processes.
The indictment alleges BTC-e was operated to facilitate transactions for cybercriminals worldwide and received the criminal proceeds of numerous computer intrusions and hacking incidents, ransomware scams, identity theft schemes, corrupt public officials, and narcotics distribution rings.
Instead of acting to prevent money laundering, BTC-e and its operators embraced the pervasive criminal activity conducted at the exchange.Users openly and explicitly discussed criminal activity on BTC-e’s user chat.”
BTC-e, however, kept communicating with users and finally came back on the 16th of September, rebranded as Wex.nz and continued to deny any links with Alexander Vinnik.
Vinnik is a Russian national, and while he was arrested on a US warrant, he is also wanted in Russia for fraud charges. However, if he is extradited to the United States, he may face up to 55 years in prison for multiple counts of money laundering and cyber crimes.
In Greece, extradition disputes like this one are decided upon by the Justice Minister, and it remains to be seen what the verdict will be following Vinnik’s next hearing regarding his extradition to Russia.