Russia’s foreign ministry has sharply criticized a Greek court’s decision to extradite Alexander Vinnik to the US for his alleged role in laundering funds through the BTC-e bitcoin exchange.
In a statement, the Ministry for Foreign Affairs said today that they “noted with regret” that the court opted to comply with the US’s extradition request for Vinnik, who was arrested in Greece in late July and was accused of laundering billions of dollars in bitcoin through the exchange.
Both Vinnik and BTC-e were later charged by US prosecutors, with FinCEN handing down a $110 million fine after the sealed indictment was unveiled.
Since then, Vinnik has remained in Greece pending the outcome of the extradition process. During that time the Russian government moved to extradite Vinnik on unrelated charges, a move that was later endorsed by Vinnik himself in a statement to Russia Today.
To date, Vinnik has maintained that he is innocent of the charges, though he claims to have worked for BTC-e in the past. BTC-e, for its part, has denied Vinnik’s involvement and, since the exchange’s site domain was seized by US agents, has moved to establish a new cryptocurrency exchange.
But this week’s ruling by a Greek judge was met with dismay by the Russian foreign ministry, which in a statement urged the court to reconsider the decision.
The Russian government said:
“We deem the verdict unjust and a violation of international law. A request from the Russian Prosecutor General’s Office on extraditing Mr Vinnik to Russia was submitted to the Greek authorities. Based on legal precedent, the Russian request should take priority as Mr Vinnik is a citizen of Russia.”
The statement notably makes no mention of BTC-e or the specific crimes for which Vinnik has been accused. That said, it does make note that Vinnik’s legal team will appeal the decision, potentially leaving it up to the Greek Justice Ministry to decide on where the Russian national will be sent.
The foreign ministry also expressed hope that Vinnik will ultimately be extradited to Russia.
“We hope the Greek authorities will consider the Russian Prosecutor General’s Office request, and Russia’s reasoning, and act in strict compliance with international law,” the ministry said.
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