US authorities have withdrawn their extradition request for alleged BTC-e crypto exchange operator Alexander Vinnik from France, his French lawyer has told Russian media. Vinnik’s defense suspects, however, that the move is actually aimed at expediting his extradition via Greece.
Lawyer says Washington wants Vinnik to stay in jail
The United States has withdrawn a request filed in 2020 to extradite Alexandre Vinnik from France, according to Frédéric Belot, who is defending him in French justice. The Russian computer scientist served a five-year prison sentence in the country where he was convicted of money laundering.
Vinnik’s international defense team has tried to secure his release, but France is more likely to send him back to Greece, where he was arrested in the summer of 2017 on the warrant of US prosecutors who accuse him of having laundered at least $4 billion through the infamous cryptocurrency exchange BTC-e.
This week, Belot told RBC Crypto that the French prosecutor’s office resumed the process on the US extradition request on July 1, 2022 in order to prevent the Russian’s release. He believes his withdrawal is a “deceptive maneuver”, intended to ensure that Vinnik remains behind bars until he returns to Greece.
The Greek authorities had already granted an American request for extradition before sending him to France. This means that his return to Greece may actually expedite his transfer to the United States. The next hearing in the Vinnik case has been postponed from September 7 to August 3, Belot also noted. Until then, the Russian national will remain in French prison.
Belot added that during the hearings at the Paris court’s investigative chamber, Vinnik’s lawyers again reminded the French judicial authorities that the Russian Federation had also sent an extradition request to France, and long before that of the United States.
In his home country, Alexander Vinnik was charged in 2018 with stealing 750 million rubles ($13 million at the current rate). He said he would like to return to Russia. Greek authorities extradited him to France in 2020 where he was also charged with impersonation and extortion.
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