UPDATED | July 31, 2017:
A court of appeals has now ruled in favor of an additional extradition request filed by Russia. With extradition requests from France, the US, and Russia having all been approved, it is expected the Greek Minister of Justice will now have to decide which country will ultimately receive Vinnik.
ORIGINAL | July 16, 2018:
On July 13, a Greek court in Thessaloniki approved the extradition of Alexander Vinnik to France amid suspicion that he defrauded about 100 French citizens, according to the Associated Press. The French government specifically accuses him of cybercrime, money laundering, membership in a criminal organization, and extortion. The court's agreement comes after France requested his extradition in June.
The Russian and US governments have also requested Vinnik's extradition due to criminal charges in their respective countries.
Russia, however, quickly protested the court's ruling. In a statement issued Friday, the Russian Foreign Ministry suggested a possible political motive for the decision:
"Several days after taking an unfriendly decision to expel Russian diplomats and to deny entry to several Russian citizens, [Greece has] adopted a decision to extradite Russian citizen Alexander Vinnik to France. It is obvious that Russia cannot leave these actions unanswered."
Apparently, Greek authorities confirmed the expulsion of two Russian diplomats a day prior to the court's extradition ruling. The diplomats in question allegedly funded protests to try to prevent neighboring country Macedonia from joining the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Greece is a member of NATO, which was formed after the World War II to counteract a military threat from the Soviet Union. Still, Greece's prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, has reportedly tried to improve ties between Russia and the European Union.
Whether the decision is politically motivated or not, news of the court's ruling follows an international tug-of-war. Here is an abbreviated timeline:
- Vinnik was initially arrested in Greece while on a family vacation in July 2017.
- A Greek court approved his extradition to the US on October 4, 2017.
- A week later, the court ruled that Vinnik could be extradited to his home country, Russia.
- Greece's Supreme Court backed the US's request on December 13, 2017.
- In January 2018, Vinnik requested political asylum in Greece, which was ultimately rejected.
- Last month, France joined Russia and the US by also requesting Vinnik's extradition.
Along his yearlong extradition journey, Vinnik survived an assassination attempt and reportedly wrote at least four "confession letters." He remains in Greece until a final extradition decision is made.