Alleged Bitcoin Money Launderer Has First Extradition Hearing
Alleged former BTC-e employee Alexander Vinnik appeared in a Greek court on Friday for the first of what could be several hearings to determine where he will ultimately stand trial.
Arrested in July by authorities on behalf of the U.S. government, Vinnik was charged with money laundering, computer hacking, fraud and drug trafficking alongside his former employer, bitcoin exchange BTC-e. However, the trial is perhaps best seen as the first step in a larger tug-of-war that will find the Greek justice minister deciding where a judge will hear the case.
At issue will likely be the now-murky details of Vinnik’s role at the company. For example, while BTC-e originally claimed it had no association with Vinnik, in his first interview after being arrested, he admitted he worked for the exchange. The U.S. government has also taken a different stance on his involvement, framing him as the “operator” of BTC-e.
Further complicating matters, is that Vinnik, a Russian national, is also wanted for fraud charges in his home country. According to Russia Today, he has agreed to be extradited to Russia, though no hearing date on that matter has yet been set.
Both countries claim Vinnik laundered some $4 billion through BTC-e over the course of six years. One of the oldest bitcoin exchanges, BTC-e was shut down after being raided by U.S. authorities in July.
Despite its troubles, the exchange is attempting a revival. On September 15, its Twitter page announced a replacement exchange called Wex.