Greece's justice minister has signed an order for bitcoin fraud suspect Alexander Vinnik to be extradited to France — concluding an international legal battle surrounding the Russian cryptocurrency trading platform operator.
Government officials said Friday that Justice Minister Konstantinos Tsiaras has signed the order, but no extradition date has been set.
Vinnik, 39, was arrested in northern Greece while on vacation in 2017 at the request of U.S. authorities, where he is accused of laundering billions of dollars using the virtual currency.
Both the United States and Russia have also made extradition requests. U.S. authorities accuse Vinnik of laundering $4 billion worth of bitcoins through BTC-e, one of the world’s largest digital currency exchanges, which he allegedly operated.
A Greek official told the AP that the extradition order was signed Thursday and listed France as the top priority for extradition, followed by the United States and then Russia. The official asked not to be named pending official announcements.
Vinnik has denied any wrongdoing, and his lawyer said he planned to try and appeal the decision at a Greek high court.
Following his arrest and detention in Greece, Vinnik staged a hunger strike for several weeks to demand his release from prison. He is currently in custody at a state hospital in Athens.
The Russian Embassy in Athens criticized the decision to send Vinnik to France.
“We regret that the fully-substantiated request made by the Russian General Prosecutor's office for the extradition of Alexander Vinnik to the country of his nationality was ignored,” the embassy said in a statement.
According to the 2017 U.S. indictment, BTC-e facilitated transactions for cybercriminals, receiving money hacking incidents, ransomware scams, identity theft schemes, and narcotics distribution rings. The platform was founded in 2011 and shut down in 2017. Vinnik denies the allegations made in the U.S. indictment and says he acted as a technical consultant to the platform and had no knowledge of any illegal activity.
Follow Gatopoulos at https://twitter.com/dgatopoulos