Alexander Vinnik, wanted in the US on money laundering charges, has been given a 5 year prison sentence by a French court. He was previously charged in Greece, but fled to Russia before the trial began.
The Greek-born Russian citizen and bitcoin entrepreneur Alexander Vinnik was sentenced in Greece to 5 years behind bars for laundering money.
A Russian national has been sentenced to five years in prison by the French court for his role in facilitating laundering $4 bln in BTC. Alexander Vinnik was extradited to France by the US authorities in July 2017. He was charged with money laundering and for creating an international organized crime group, the trial kickoff was held on 8th of September 2018.
The Paris Court of Appeal has upheld the five-year prison sentence in the case of BTC-e operator Alexandre Vinnik.
The court upheld the December 2023 conviction and prison sentence, finding that Winnick/BTC-e had pled guilty to money laundering as part of an organized criminal group and had misrepresented the source of the proceeds.
The Paris court rejected several requests from Winnick’s defense team, including a request to see copies of evidence provided by the FBI. The court also exempted Vinnik from the 100,000 euro fine originally imposed at the December sentencing.
Winnick was initially accused of ripping off nearly 200 people with ransomware, but in December a court dismissed the charges against him for malware attacks. Prosecutors have asked for a lower fine and expressed doubts about his ability to repay the victims of his crimes, Russia’s state news agency TAAS reported.
The defense plans to appeal within five days, as required by French law.
The Russian computer scientist was initially detained in July 2017 at the request of the United States while on vacation in Greece. The United States accuses him of laundering more than $4 billion when he ran the now defunct cryptocurrency exchange BTC-e.
In January 2023, Vinnik was extradited to France, where he was sentenced to five years in prison in December. Vinnik’s lawyer, Frederick Belo, fears that the Greek authorities may want to send him back to Greece after his conviction to extradite him to the United States on similar charges.
Russia has also filed an extradition request, citing humanitarian reasons. After Vinnik went on hunger strike in Greece in November 2018, Russian human rights commissioner Tatyana Moskalkova asked the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to help ensure Vinnik’s return to Russia. At the time, she pointed out the deteriorating health of Winnick and his wife, who had been diagnosed with brain cancer.
Related: The BTC-e Vinnik case drags on as new allegations continue to surface.
However, the Russian extradition request may have been motivated by the need to prevent sensitive intelligence operations from falling into the hands of foreign adversaries. Some analysts speculate that Russian intelligence agencies have used BTC-e to acquire bitcoins for covert operations.
If Vinnik is extradited to Russia, he will face a lesser charge of computer fraud.
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