ATHENS (Reuters) – A Russian wanted by the United States for allegedly laundering billions of dollars in bitcoin appeared in a Greek court on Wednesday for a hearing to consider his extradition to Moscow on different charges.
Judges ruled last week that Alexander Vinnik, the suspected mastermind of a $4 billion bitcoin laundering ring, should be extradited to the United States, a decision he is appealing at Greece’s supreme court.
Russia says the ruling was unjust and violated international law. It wants its submission to take priority because Vinnik is a Russian citizen.
In the United States, where he faces up to 55 years in prison, Vinnik is accused of running BTC-e — a digital currency exchange used to trade bitcoin — to facilitate crimes ranging from computer hacking to drug trafficking since 2011.
Moscow is demanding Vinnik be extradited on lesser fraud charges and he has agreed to that request even though he denies those charges too.
Vinnik was arrested while on holiday in Greece in July, one of seven Russians arrested or indicted worldwide this year on U.S. cybercrime charges. Russia then sought his extradition as it has done with other nationals wanted by the U.S.
He has told Greek judges that he was a technical consultant to BTC-e and not its operator.
Should the supreme court uphold the decision to extradite him to the United States, the final decision is in the hands of Greece’s justice minister, who can approve extradition to one country and block the other in the event of competing requests.
Reporting by Karolina Tagaris; Editing by Peter Graff