Bitcoin fraud suspect wanted by US, Russia appears in Greek court


A Russian suspected of masterminding a money-laundering operation using bitcoin appeared in a Greek court on Friday for a hearing to consider his extradition to the United States.

Alexander Vinnik was arrested in a hotel in northern Greece in late July on a US warrant. Russia has since also requested his extradition on separate fraud charges, his lawyer Xanthippi Moisidou said.

The US Justice Department says Vinnik facilitated crimes since 2011 including computer hacking, fraud and drug trafficking by laundering at least $4 billion through BTC-e, an exchange used to trade bitcoin and other digital currencies.

Vinnik, who was escorted handcuffed through the back door of a Thessaloniki court, denies any wrongdoing. If extradited to the United States, he faces up to 55 years in prison.

He is one of seven Russians arrested or indicted on US cyber crime charges this year.

Russia has sought the extradition of its nationals wanted by the US before. Yevgeniy Nikulin, an alleged Russian hacker, was arrested in Prague last year and both the United States and Russia want him extradited.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry had criticized Nikulin’s arrest, saying it showed Washington was mounting a global manhunt against Russian citizens.

A court hearing for Vinnik’s extradition to Russia has not yet been set, Moissidou said.

Greece’s justice minister can typically approve extradition to one country and block the other in the event of competing requests from two or more countries.