Greece to Extradite Russian Suspect in Bitcoin Theft Case to France

The justice ministry of Greece has decided to extradite a Russian connected to the theft of $450mn in Bitcoin, to France, a ministry source said last week, according to The Business Times.

However, the extradition, wanted by France over money laundering charges, has been delayed, according to the lawyer of Alexander Vinnik. No other details were forthcoming on when Vinnik would be sent to France.

40-year-old Vinnik, who allegedly headed the now defunct bitcoin exchange BTC-e, had gone on hunger strike last year to prevent his extradition, and is prepared to resume his protest, his lawyer Zoe Constantopoulou said.

The French warrant says Vinnik defrauded more than 100 people in six French cities between 2016 and 2018.

Also sought by the U.S. and Russia, Vinnik has been in Greek custody since his arrest in July 2017 in the tourist resort of Halkidiki. Separate Greek court decisions had previously approved the extradition requests of all three countries. The final decision was up to the justice ministry. Vinnik wanted to be extradited to Russia, where he is wanted on lesser fraud charges.

In a series of tweets, the Russian embassy in Athens said it was “saddened” that its request for its own extradition request to have priority was “ignored.”

His wife and two children live there, and his lawyers claim that his life would be in danger if he were extradited to France or the U.S. But Greek justice minister Costas Tsiaras had on Thursday signed an order satisfying France’s request first, followed by those of the U.S. and Russia, the ministry source said Friday.

BTC-e, founded in 2011, became one of the world’s largest and most widely used digital currency exchanges.

According to the U.S. indictment, BTC-e is also suspected of having played a role in online extortion and other cyber-crimes. Vinnik denies the charges.