A Thessaloniki court has ruled that former BTC-e head Alexander Vinnik will be extradited to France where he faces an array of criminal charges that include cybercrime, extortion, and money laundering. The country’s Supreme Court had previously approved an extradition request from the United States, which wants to pursue criminal charges against Vinnik for his alleged role in laundering $4 billion in Bitcoin.
The court’s Friday decision, reported by CNN Greece, is a response to France’s complaint that Vinnik had “looted” 130 million euros from the BTC-e platform, including funds belonging to “more than 100 French citizens.” Vinnik has denied the allegations and suggested that he was simply engaging in legitimate personal transactions by “transferring e-money through a platform.” He reportedly plans to appeal the decision.
Vinnik has been the subject of multiple extradition requests since his arrest in Greece last year. That arrest was based on a U.S. warrant. Vinnik is also wanted in Russia for alleged cyber attacks on Russian banks involving 750 million rubles. Greek courts have now ruled in favor of all three nations’ extradition requests.
Prior to Friday’s ruling, the decision to send Vinnik to either the U.S. or Russia would have been made by the Greek Minister of Justice. According to a BBC Russia report, however, the French extradition request has upended that normal process. France reportedly used a European arrest warrant, which involves an accelerated process within EU member countries “in which the Minister of Justice does not intervene.”
Vinnik’s lawyers have reportedly suggested that the French extradition request is a ploy to ensure that the defendant is ultimately turned over to the United States.
Meanwhile, Russian authorities have expressed displeasure with Greece’s handling of the case. The court’s decision comes in the wake of increased tensions between Greece and Russia, and the Russian Foreign Ministry hinted at possible reprisals as it responded to the news:
"Several days after taking an unfriendly decision to expel Russian diplomats and to deny entry to several Russian citizens, they have adopted a decision to extradite Russian citizen Alexander Vinnik to France. It is obvious that Russia cannot leave these actions unanswered."