Score one for United States. Again.
On Wednesday, the Greek Supreme Court approved the order for Russian national Alexander Vinnik’s extradition to the United States, where he is facing charges for allegedly laundering billions of dollars through digital currency platform BTC-e.
Vinnik was arrested in a beachside village in northern Greece last July on suspicion of laundering more than $4 billion via BTC-e as well as facilitating hacking, fraud, identity theft, tax refund fraud, public corruption and drug trafficking activities during his time in the digital currency market.
The Supreme Court decision was the latest update in the ongoing legal battle between the U.S. government and Russia, which are both seeking Vinnik’s extradition. A lower court initially ordered the 38-year-old to be sent to the United States, but the Russian Foreign Ministry lodged its own extradition request for Vinnik, who also appealed to be sent to his home country.
In an interview with Russian media, Vinnik said the U.S. “has nothing to do with” him because he is a Russian citizen, and so should “let the court in Russia deal with it.”
Compared to the “lesser fraud charges” that he will face in Russia, Vinnik could spend up to 55 years in jail in the United States, where he has been indicted on charges of operating unlicensed money service business as well as 17 counts of money laundering and related money crimes.
The final decision, however, lies with Greece’s justice minister. Under the Greek law, it is the minister of justice who decides where to send people accused of crimes in times of competing requests, regardless of the court decision.
Vinnik’s lawyer, IliasSpyrliadis, was quoted by the Associated Press, saying: The Supreme Court has in essence accepted that our client should be sent to the United States… It is now up to the justice minister to decide when and where our client will be sent.”