Crypto Exchange BTC-e Operator Vinnik Reportedly Denied Bail in US, Maintains Innocence
Alexander Vinnik, the alleged owner and operator of the infamous cryptocurrency exchange BTC-e, has been found not eligible for release on bail in the United States, where he was recently transferred from Greece. The Russian, accused of large-scale money laundering through the now-defunct trading platform, and other crimes, rejects U.S. charges.
Alexander Vinnik Remains in California Prison, Russian Embassy Offers Help
Authorities in the United States have effectively denied release on bail for the IT specialist Alexander Vinnik, Russian media reported, quoting his record on the website of the Santa Rita Jail in California where he is incarcerated. Vinnik has been in the U.S. since his hasty extradition from Greece a little more than a week ago, which angered his international defense team.
The crypto entrepreneur was arrested on a U.S. warrant in the summer of 2017, in the Greek city of Thessaloniki where he arrived on a family vacation. Greece first sent him to France in late 2019, where he served a five-year sentence for money laundering. In July, U.S. authorities withdrew a request to get him from France, thus speeding up his transfer through Greece, which had already approved his extradition to the United States.
His lawyers protested against the decision to quickly hand him over to American authorities, pointing out that he had applied for asylum in Greece after previously warning that in the U.S. Vinnik is likely to become a “hostage” of the geopolitical clash surrounding the ongoing military conflict in NATO-supported Ukraine, which was invaded by Russian forces in February.
The information provided by the prison’s online inmate locator does not indicate whether the bail decision was made at the hearing on Friday, Aug. 5, when Vinnik appeared in a federal court in San Francisco, or if the judge has not yet considered the matter. A status check returns the short message “Cannot be released on bail (NO BAIL).”
Russian Pleads ‘Not Guilty’ to Crimes Alleged by US Prosecutors
During the first hearing, Alexander Vinnik declared his innocence and pleaded not guilty, according to a report by the Tass news agency, quoting a spokesperson for the court. The next hearing has been scheduled for Aug. 15.
According to the indictment, quoted by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) in last week’s announcement of his extradition, BTC-e processed transactions from a wide range of crimes, such as the Mt Gox hack, ransomware scams, and drug trade. The Russian is now facing multiple counts of money laundering for more than $4 billion, among other charges.
In another report this week, Tass revealed that the Embassy of the Russian Federation in Washington was still seeking contact with Vinnik over the phone. Nadezhda Shumova, who heads the mission’s Consular Department has been quoted as stating that Russian diplomats intend to provide all the needed consular and legal assistance to their compatriot.
Both Greece and France have ignored extradition requests filed by Russia, where he is accused of embezzlement of over 600,000 rubles (less than $10,000 at current exchange rates) and “fraud in the field of computer information” for 750 million rubles ($12 million). Vinnik himself has in the past expressed his will to return to his homeland and face justice there. That seems unlikely, however. An accusation not mentioned by the DOJ is that he collaborated with Russian intelligence.
Do you think Alexander Vinnik will be sentenced for money laundering in the United States? Share your expectations about the trial in the comments section below.
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Author: Lubomir Tassev