U.S. close to extraditing two Russian cybercriminals

Kristen Gonzales
October 5, 2017

A Greek court in Thessaloniki has ruled that Russian citizen Alexander Vinnik, be extradited to the USA, where he is wanted on a $4 billion bitcoin fraud case.

Russian citizens Pyotr "Peter" Levashov, 36, and Alexander Vinnik, 37, were arrested earlier this year while vacationing in Spain and Greece, respectively, spurring separate but similar extradition battles at the center of this week's rulings.

Russian Federation is also seeking the extradition of Vinnik on suspicions of fraud, but there is still no date for the court hearing.

Each of the accused faces a maximum punishment of more than 50 years in federal prison if convicted on all counts - an outcome made increasingly likely after the courts recently rejected extradition requests filed by Russian Federation and agreed to send the accused stateside pending appeal.

Vinnik, who rejected charges, said he had right to appeal by taking decision to Supreme Court of Greece.

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US authorities accuse Vinnik of running a multibillion-dollar digital-money-laundering network and of involvement in laundering money from criminal proceeds, charges he denies.

At least seven Russian nationals have been arrested or indicted worldwide this year in connection with US cybercrime charges, Reuters reported, anything but alleviating tensions between former Cold War foes. As if the web of activity wasn't large enough already, American authorities have also tied Vinnik to the failure of Japanese bitcoin exchange MtGox.

In the event that the Supreme Court upholds the decision, Greece's justice minister will have the final say over whether Vinnik's extradition to the U.S. can go ahead, or whether his transfer to America needs to be blocked in favour of Russia's request. Instead, Vinnik claims he was simply a technical consultant and BTC-e was one of his clients.

A hearing date for the Russian extradition request on lesser fraud charges has not yet been set.

Nikos Paraskevopoulos, the Greek Minister of Justice, will have the final word on the competing extradition cases, and may play a critical role in determining where Vinnik stands trial.

Other reports by TheSundaySentinel

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