US Calls Off Extradition Request for BTC-e Operator Alexander Vinnik

U.S. authorities still want to try Vinnik, but his lawyer said they carried out a legal maneuver to keep him in prison longer and eventually get him to the U.S.Read MoreFeedzy

The request to extradite BTC-e operator Alexander Vinnik from France to the U.S. was called off on July 15, Vinnik’s French lawyer Frederic Belot confirmed to CoinDesk. The Russian news agency TASS first reported on the news on Thursday.

According to Belot, however, the move will allow U.S. authoritiesto keep Vinnik in prison longer and later extradite him to Greece, where he was first arrested in 2017, and, ultimately, to the U.S. Vinnik was indicted there in 2020 by a California court on allegations of “computer intrusions and hacking incidents, ransomware scams, identity theft schemes, corrupt public officials and narcotics distribution rings.”

Belot declined to explain the legal mechanism being used by U.S. authoritieswhen asked by CoinDesk, only responding that “by withdrawing their request, the U.S. reactivate the Greece request.”

Vinnik, a Russian national, is known as an operator of BTC-e, one of the earliest bitcoin exchanges, which was linked to the hack of Mt.Gox, the first bitcoin exchange, which never recovered after a theft of 744,408 BTC and had to shut down in 2014.

Vinnik himself has always denied that he was ran BTC-e, claiming he only worked at the exchange.

BTC-e, in turn, was shut down by U.S. authorities in 2017, its servers confiscated and Vinnik arrested in Greece where he was on a beach with his family. Since then, three countries have been competing to extradite Vinnik – the U.S., France and Russia – with all three presenting a different set of allegations.

France prevailed in 2020, and Vinnik was sentenced to five years in prison there by a French court, with the sentence being upheld last summer. However, U.S. authorities have never given up on putting him in a jail in America, according to his lawyers.

BTC-e’s offspring, named WEX, was launched just a few months after the BTC-e website went offline. WEX had access to BTC-e’s user base and offered to gradually refund what BTC-e users lost after it was shut down.

However, WEX also stopped functioning in the summer of 2019. Its CEO, Dmitri Vasiliev, has been arrested several times in different countries since then, including Italy, Poland and most recently in Croatia on May 30.

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