Temporary win for Russia in bid for bitcoin suspect


A Thessaloniki appeals court on Wednesday approved a request from Moscow for the extradition of a Russian national who is also wanted in the US in connection with charges that he laundered 4 billion dollars in bitcoins.

In its ruling Wednesday, the court upheld the request from Russia for Alexander Vinnik to return to his homeland and stand trial on lesser charges relating to alleged fraud worth 10,000 euros. That decision came a week after the same court upheld a request from Washington for the extradition of Vinnik over the bitcoin allegations. Vinnik, 38, appealed against that ruling to the Supreme Court.

In such situations, according to Lambros Margaritis, a law professor at Thessaloniki’s Aristotle University, the request of the defendant’s homeland takes precedence. However, if the Supreme Court upholds the ruling in favor of Vinnik’s extradition to the US it will come down to Justice Minister Stavros Kontonis to decide.

US authorities accuse Vinnik of laundering 4 billion dollars’ worth of bitcoins through BTC-e, one of the world’s largest digital currency exchanges, which he allegedly operated. Defending himself in court last week, Vinnik claimed that he had nothing to do with the digital platform, saying that he was just a “technician” and the platform was one of his clients.

Vinnik was arrested in July while on holiday with his family in Halkidiki, northern Greece.