Bitcoin Fraud Suspect Alexander Vinnik Extradited To Russia


Greece’s Supreme Court has approved the extradition of Alexander Vinnik to Russia. Some think he might also have valuable information for U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller as he investigates alleged Russian election meddling.

Alexander Vinnik was once a man with two lives.

He was said to be one of the people behind the BTC-e exchange. He was also the alleged mastermind behind a scheme that saw billions of dollars laundered through Bitcoin transactions.

Vinnik was arrested last July in Greece, and additional allegations at the time purported he had bitcoins that might be traceable to the 2013 Mt. Gox hack. The BTC-e exchange was later taken down by the FBI in July.

Now, reports are saying the Supreme Court of Greece has chosen to extradite Vinnik, a Russian citizen, back to his home country. The ruling is expected to officially become public on September 14.

A Three-Country Fight For Vinnik

The decision about what to do with Vinnik has not necessarily been an easy one. The United States, Russia, and France each made a claim for his extradition and made it very clear they would not be pleased to see him go somewhere else.

Vinnik has been detained in Greece since his arrest. He recently told a reporter how he had no complaints concerning his time in prison, but in May, law enforcement reportedly thwarted an assassination attempt that was purportedly going to occur through poisoning.

In court on September 4, Vinnik was clear that he “did not recognize these fake charges” and expressed confidence that Russia would clear the air about his guilty status since “there is no justice” in France and the United States.

Russia was particularly keen not to have Vinnik extradited elsewhere, threatening retaliation if he went to France or the United States.

Some think Russia’s concerns about Vinnik going to the United States could have something to do about his connection with a hacking unit that has been targeted by U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

Valuable Insight For Robert Mueller?

According to analysis firm Elliptic, BTC-e allegedly facilitated some bitcoins that were associated with a hacking group called Fancy Bear.

This was one of the names of the military officers that have been targeted by Mueller for allegedly stealing and releasing emails of those in the Democratic Party.

Attorney Arkady Bukh told Bloomberg how Vinnik, if in the hands of U.S. officials, might be able to give them valuable insights about contact information and bank accounts associated to alleged Russian hacking.

BTC-e and Alexander Vinnik

So far, there is no clear-cut evidence Fancy Bear got Bitcoins directly from BTC-e, but Elliptic’s Chief Date Officer, Tom Robinson, explains how there’s a “strong link between much of the funds.”

U.S. officials allege Vinnik and BTC-e made it easy for criminals to launder funds since the exchange did not really vet customers.

Information from Mueller includes a breakdown of how Russian military intelligence officers allegedly conducted transactions through cryptocurrency exchanges to buy server time in order to carry out attacks.

What do you think about the extradition of Alexander Vinnik? Let us know in the comments! 

Image courtesy of Shutterstock, Twitter.

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Written by Kevin O’Brien @ September 5, 2018 Kevin O’Brien

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