The US authorities have withdrawn an extradition request from France for the alleged operator of the BTC-e crypto exchange Alexander Vinnik, his French lawyer told Russian media. However, Vinnik’s defense suspects that the move is intended to actually expedite his extradition via Greece.
Lawyer says Washington wants Vinnik to stay in jail
The United States has withdrawn a 2020 request to extradite Alexander Vinnik from France, according to Frédéric Belo, who is defending him in French courts. A Russian IT specialist served a five-year sentence in a country where he was convicted of money laundering.
Vinnik’s international defense team is trying to secure his release, but France is likely to send him back to Greece, where he was arrested in the summer of 2017 on a warrant from U.S. prosecutors who accuse him of laundering at least $4 billion through the infamous cryptocurrency exchange. BTC-e.
Belote told RBC Crypto this week that French prosecutors have reopened the US extradition request on July 1, 2022 to prevent the Russian from being released. He considers his recall a “deceptive maneuver” designed to ensure that Vinnik remains behind bars until he is returned to Greece.
Greek authorities had already granted the US extradition request before sending him to France. This means that his return to Greece may actually speed up his move to the United States. The next meeting in the Vinnik case was postponed from September 7 to August 3, Belot also noted. Until then, the Russian will remain in a French prison.
Belo added that during the hearings at the Court’s Investigation Chamber in Paris, Vinnik’s lawyers again reminded the French judiciary that the Russian Federation had also sent an extradition request to France, much earlier than the US request.
In the homeland of Alexander Vinnik in 2018, he was accused of stealing 750 million rubles ($13 million at the current exchange rate). He stated that he would like to return to Russia. Greek authorities extradited him to France in 2020, where he was also charged with identity theft and extortion.
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