France deported Russian crypto entrepreneur Alexander Vinnik to Greece, which could lead to his extradition to the US, says his lawyer
Alexander Vinnik, a Russian crypto entrepreneur suspected of fraud in Russia and the United States, has been sent to Greece, his French lawyer told Russian media on Thursday. Frédéric Belo believes this decision may have been part of an elaborate plan to possibly extradite his client to America.
Vinnik, a Russian blockchain technology expert, was arrested in Greece in 2017 at the request of the US government, which accused him of laundering between $4 billion and $9 billion through the now-defunct BTC.-e cryptocurrency trading platform.
In 2019, the Greek Supreme Court ordered Vinnik’s extradition to France, where he was also charged with money laundering. The man was later found guilty and sentenced to five years in prison. His prison term ended at the end of June, but the French authorities refused to release him, despite the pleas of his lawyer.
The French authorities reportedly intended to “secretly” send him back to Greece at the end of June, but the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) blocked this decision, Belo told RIA Novosti.
According to the lawyer, on Thursday he was put on a flight to Greece. In mid-June, the United States withdrew its request for Vinnik’s extradition to French authorities, paving the way for his deportation to Greece. However, according to Belo, this may have been part of a larger “fraud scheme” that ultimately meant the transfer of a Russian contractor to the United States.
“Greece may, in the short term, extradite Vinnik to the United States, to California, to San Francisco,” says Belo.
If Athens grants Washington’s extradition request, Vinnik could face up to 55 years in prison. The suspect denied doing anything and said the case against him was nothing more than the intention of the Americans.
Vinnik has previously told his lawyers that he wants to be extradited to Russia and tried there to be close to his family. He also stated that he was ready to cooperate with Russian investigators. Moscow authorities suspect him of illegally obtaining 750 million rubles ($12.2 million) through “computer fraud” and stealing 600,000 rubles ($9,780).
In 2018, Vinnik stated that he could shed light on other crimes related to cryptocurrencies, adding that the disclosure of such information could endanger his life.
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