Greece extradited a Russian money launderer to the United States on Thursday where he is accused of running a multibillion-dollar cryptocurrency exchange that allegedly profited from various hacking and extortion schemes.
Alexander Vinnik was put on an airplane on Thursday in Greece, where he was arrested while on holiday with his family in 2017.
According to sources, the operation to extradite the 43-year-old, whose financial dealings earned him the nickname “Mr. Bitcoin,” was carried out in the utmost secrecy and was in line with a decision of Greece’s Supreme Court.
Vinnik stands accused in the United States of laundering $4 billion via a Bitcoin scheme. He denies the charges.
Before being extradited to the US, he also served time in France for similar offenses but was acquitted of extortion and association with a criminal enterprise, before being returned to Greece earlier this week.
Vinnik has fought his extradition to the US and asked that he be sent to Russia instead, where, he claims, he has better chances of having a fair trial.
Russian money launderer operated cryptocurrency exchange
He is accused of operating a cryptocurrency exchange known as BTC-e that allegedly did business with ransomware gangs, drug dealers, and identity thieves, according to the Justice Department.
BTC-e, which shut down in 2017, received more than $4 billion worth of bitcoin while it was operating, the Justice Department maintains.
In 2017, the Treasury Department assessed a $110 million civil money penalty against the cryptocurrency exchange “for willfully violating U.S. anti-money laundering laws” and a $12 million fee against Vinnik.
In the US Northern District Court of California, he faces charges of money laundering and operating an unlicensed money service business in the US, among other charges.
Vinnik’s extradition is a significant win for US law enforcement officials, who had been in a high-stakes extradition fight with Russia to gain custody of Vinnik, CNN says.