Cryptocurrency and money laundering have become intertwined as bad actors continue to abuse the anonymity of digital currencies. One such money-laundering scandal was orchestrated by Alexander Vinnik, one of the owners of the largest Russian-language cryptocurrency exchange BTC-e.
Vinnik was accused of heading a group that was responsible for laundering approximately $4 billion in Bitcoin over six years via BTC-e and was arrested by the Greek police back in July 2017.
He was first indicted by the U.S. in July 2017, followed by a ruling for his extradition to Russia in the Supreme Civil and Criminal Court of Greece back in September 2018. In July 2018, a Greek court ruled to extradite him to France.
Per the latest reports, the alleged BTC money launderer might now be facing trial in France, while awaiting charges in the United States and Russia.
A report from French news agency Agence France-Presse (AFP) states that a Paris Judge has ordered Vinnik to stand trial for extortion, money laundering, criminal association, and fraudulently accessing and modifying data in data processing systems.
Authorities in France have accused Vinnik of duping more than 100 individuals, local authorities, and companies of 135 million euros between 2016 and 2018.
Alexander Vinnik, also known as “Mr. Bitcoin”, has continued to deny charges and has requested to be extradited to his homeland Russia, where he’ll have to faces lesser charges that involve defrauding victims out of $11,000.
According to Vinnik’s lawyer Ariane Zimra, the defendant wasn’t allowed to present facts before the decision was taken to order him to stand trial.
French authorities had started an investigation on Vinnik after many fell victim to the “Locky” ransomware. Investigators found evidence that linked the ransomware to Vinnik.
Wanted in 3 nations
For now, the alleged Bitcoin money launderer is amidst a three-way extradition tussle between the United States, France, and Russia.
After his trial in France, Vinnik could be heading for Greece to face extradition charges in the U.S., where the indictment has 21 charges against him that include identity theft and even facilitating drug trafficking to money laundering.
Meanwhile, BTC-e has been tied to laundering the money stolen from the infamous Mt.Gox hack that saw 744,408 bitcoins being stolen, and eventually led the company to declare bankruptcy.
Multiple sources confirmed that Alexander Vinnik had a direct link with this incident was also in possession of about 300 000 of the stolen BTC in his personal wallet.
As The Daily Chain had reported, New Zealand police had frozen approximately 140 million NZD ($90 million) back in June.
The assets were controlled by a New Zealand registered company with ties to the global investigation into the BTC-e exchange scandal.
The U.S. Treasury Department had previously fined BTC-e $110 million for “willfully violating” anti-money laundering laws, while Vinnik himself was ordered to pay $12 million.