The Supreme Administrative Court of Greece has suspended a decision to extradite the alleged BTC-e operator Alexander Vinnik. The temporary measure has been imposed to allow the review of an appeal against the extradition. The Russian national, accused of laundering billions of dollars through the now defunct cryptocurrency exchange, started a new hunger strike last week.
France Is First Destination for Vinnik, Russia Listed Last
The decision to extradite Vinnik to France was signed on Friday by the Greek Minister of Justice Konstantinos Tsiaras, who also ordered the director of the Korydallos prison to prepare the necessary documents. It details that the United States should be the second possible destination for Vinnik’s departure, while the Russian Federation has been mentioned as the last option. All three countries have previously asked Greece to hand over Vinnik who was arrested on a U.S. warrant in Thessaloniki more than two years ago.
U.S. prosecutors allege that the Russian blockchain specialist is one of the owners of BTC-e and accuse him of laundering between $4 billion and $9 billion through the trading platform, including funds stolen in the Mt Gox hack. But he is also wanted in France and in his native Russia for various other crimes. Vinnik rejects all these accusations. At the same time, he has already stated he is ready to face trial in his home country. Russian authorities want to prosecute him for the theft of 600,000 rubles (less than $10,000) from a defrauded entity.
Vinnik’s defense believes that if he is handed over to the French authorities, he will eventually end up in U.S. custody. Quoted by Reuters, his Greek lawyer Zoe Costantopoulou described the ministerial decision as unfair and even called it a “death sentence.” She added that its suspension was a recognition of the risk he would face if he was extradited. Costantopoulou also revealed that Alexander has begun a new hunger strike and warned that his health is deteriorating.
Next Hearing in Vinnik Case to Be Held in January
On Tuesday, Ekaterina Sakellaropoulou who presides over Greece’s Council of State, the highest administrative court in the country, scheduled the next hearing in the case for Jan. 10, 2020, RIA Novosti reported, quoting Vinnik’s Russian lawyer Timofei Musatov. Initially, the hearing was planned for March 24. He also revealed that an expanded panel of judges will review the case next time, with the Greek court citing its “extraordinary importance.”
Vinnik’s fate has become a source of contention between Europe and America, on the one hand, and Russia on the other. Meanwhile, Greece has found itself under significant pressure from all sides and from his lawyers who insist he is being held against its own laws. The Russian citizen has spent 29 months in Greek jails when according to the country’s constitution, no one should be held in custody for more than 18 months without sentence. They also point out that while the Greek justice ministry has decided to hand him over to France, the European extradition order expired long ago.
There have been four separate decisions by Greek courts so far for the extradition of Vinnik, to the U.S., to France, and two for Russia. The latest issued by the executive power in Athens comes weeks before the upcoming visit of Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis to Washington in early January. Greek media have speculated that their government may extradite Vinnik in the hope of winning President Trump’s backing in the recent disputes with Turkey, including over territorial waters. Greece has made it clear it also expects support from the EU.
What do you think will be the outcome of Vinnik’s case? Share your expectations in the comments section below.
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