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Alexander Vinnik Faces Extradition To US From Greece




A Greek supreme court has approved US extradition requests for alleged BTC-e operator Alexander Vinnik.

Any chance Alexander Vinnik has to avoid extradition to the US in connection with criminal activity associated with the MtGox theft seems to be dissipating. Greece's Supreme Court has backed US officials, following his latest courthouse appearance in Athens on December 13.

US officials have accused Vinnik of enabling hackers and drug traffickers by laundering bitcoin which amounted to approximately $4 million at the time. Vinnik was originally arrested while on holiday at a resort in Greece on July, 26, 2017. He is believed to have operated the BTC-e cryptocurrency exchange, which authorities suspect was used to obfuscate the ill-gotten funds.

According to Garrick Hileman, a research fellow at the University of Cambridge, busting malicious actors is an act of vindication for the burgeoning cryptocurrency marketplace. Hileman said, "For bitcoin to continue to attract regulated and institutional investors it will need to operate within the law." He went on to say, "The United States, with the support of evidence from various cyber sleuths, is arguing that Vinnik and BTC-e were two of the biggest bad actors in the crypto-currency industry. Bringing bad actors to justice will help bitcoin move beyond its tainted history."

Separate lesser fraud charges brought by Russian authorities had previously challenged the original US extradition order, and a hearing was set in October to determine the court's next course of action. Now it would appear that the Greek Supreme Court has backed a US extradition, however, the ultimate decision still rests upon the shoulders of the Greek Minister of Justice, Stavros Kontonis.

In related developments, recently filed petitions are urging the Tokyo court which is handling the MtGox case to reconsider its bankruptcy classification, relative to the firm's liquidation of assets.

Speaking to the court's decision, Vinnik's attorney Ilias Spyrliadis indicated that a response from the accused's legal team would come in roughly one week, but also intimated, "The Supreme Court has in essence accepted that our client should be sent to the United States. Our client has not made any response. He listened to the ruling as it was read out ... It is now up to the justice minister to decide when and where our client will be sent."

A previous version of this article incorrectly identified the Greek minister of justice as Nikos Paraskevopoulos.

Jeremy Nation

Jeremy Nation is a writer living in Los Angeles with interests in technology, human rights, and cuisine.

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