As CCN previously reported, 38-year-old Russian national Alexander Vinnik was arrested in July while vacationing in Greece, in connection with alleged financial crimes committed while operating the now defunct bitcoin exchange BTC-e.
Back in October, a three-judge panel approved a request to extradite him to the U.S. where a grand jury indicted him on 21 counts, including spearheading a $4 billion bitcoin laundering operation, connected with the collapse of Mt. Gox. However, a separate panel of Greek judges considered extraditing him to his native country, Russia, where he is accused of obtaining 667,000 rubles (~$11,500) through fraud. His future was left in turmoil.
Although Greek courts approved both extradition requests, Vinnik is fighting the decision to extradite him to the U.S., as he is a Russian citizen, and isn’t contesting the Russian extradition request, reports suggest.
Recently, according to the Associated Press, Greece’s Supreme Court postponed his extradition hearing for the U.S. request until December, in order to allow two witnesses to attend the proceedings. The new hearing date has been set for December 6.
One of Vinnik’s lawyers, Alexandros Lykourezos, was quoted as saying:
“We asked the court to postpone the hearing today of the U.S. request for the extradition of Vinnik, so that two essential witnesses can come who couldn’t unfortunately come to Athens today. These witnesses will be able to testify and help the court understand the essential issues that arise from this case.”
As previously stated, regardless of the Supreme Court’s decision, the ultimate arbiter of Vinnik’s fate will be the Greek Minister of Justice, Nikos Paraskevopoulous. Paraskevopoulous has the unilateral authority to sign extradition orders, and it’s believed the Supreme Court ruling will merely play a role in his decision.
Vinnik denies the charges against him, and maintains that he was a technician hired by the exchange. In past interviews, Vinnik’s wife theorized the U.S. is going after him for his technical and intellectual abilities, while others believe authorities are just trying to make an example out of him, just like they did with Silk Road operator Ross Ulbricht.
BTC-e, on the other hand, was at the time taken down by authorities, and subsequently denied he was ever employed by the company. It thenrebranded and relaunched as WEX. Although it successfully relaunched, the exchange is also drawing controversy as some users claim their funds are stuck in limbo while WEX blames a third-party for the situation.