A court of appeals in France has upheld the verdict in the case against BTC-e operator Alexander Vinnik. His lawyers vowed to continue the legal struggle against Vinnik’s return to Greece in order to avoid a likely extradition to the U.S.
Court Confirms Vinnik’s 5-year Sentence for Money Laundering
The Court of Appeals of Paris has confirmed the first instance decision in Alexander Vinnik’s trial, Russian media reported. In late 2020, the IT specialist, and alleged cybercriminal, was sentenced to five years in prison for money laundering.
Vinnik’s defense team now plans to file a cassation appeal within five days as required by French law, the leading Russian business daily Kommersant wrote, quoting Vinnik’s lawyer, Frédéric Bélot, who also commented:
If we summarize what happened, we have to regrettably admit that the court made a “lazy decision.” The judge did not want to investigate the money laundering charges, despite that the prosecution’s evidence is far from certain.
Bélot is convinced prosecutors are not in the position to argue that Alexander received remuneration for dubious transactions. “This is not the case,” he insisted. The lawyer expressed his satisfaction with the dropping of most other charges from the verdict, and in particular, the one for extortion of money through malware.
Alexander Vinnik’s Lawyers to Fight Extradition to the US
Vinnik’s defense will now focus its efforts to ensure that he will not be transferred back to Greece after serving his French term. His lawyers fear that Greek authorities may extradite him to the United States where he is also accused of money laundering.
In July 2017, the Russian national was arrested in Thessaloniki where he arrived on a vacation with his family. Vinnik was detained on a U.S. warrant. American prosecutors allege he laundered up to $9 billion through the infamous crypto exchange BTC-e.
Frédéric Bélot said the French judge argued that Vinnik’s rights would not be violated in Greece, an EU member state, not recognizing that the Russian faces possible extradition to the U.S. and a new trial “in extreme, not European conditions.” Bélot considers this to be a serious threat to the “already shaken physical and mental health” of his client and is planning to submit a new appeal in the near future.
Russia, where Vinnik faces charges of “fraud in the field of computer information,” is also seeking his extradition but the French judiciary rejected Moscow’s request. During his detention in Greece, where he went on a long hunger strike, Vinnik stated he was ready to return and appear in court in his home country. At the latest hearing in Pairs, lawyers were joined by Vinnik’s mother who arrived in May to support her son.
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