Alexander Vinnik Faces U.S. Justice After French Prison Release

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  • Alexander Vinnik faces deportation to the U.S. after being released early from his French prison stay
  • Vinnik is wanted by both Russia and the U.S. over various financial crimes
  • Vinnik’s exchange, BTC-e, laundered thousands of stolen Mt. Gox bitcoin

Alexander Vinnik has been released from a French prison after serving just one of the five years to which he was sentenced for money laundering, but his joy may be short lived as U.S. authorities want him to face charges there. Vinnik was sentenced to the term in a Paris prison last June, and presumably thought he wouldn’t have to go to the U.S. until at least 2024, but his early release opens up the door for U.S authorities to have him brought across the Atlantic.

Money Laundering Charges Stick

Vinnik was the subject of a three-way judicial battle between 2017 and 2020, with France, the U.S. and Russia all fighting to have him extradited to stand trial for various financial crimes relating to the running of his cryptocurrency exchange, BTC-e. This exchange was believed to have laundered some of the proceeds of the hack on Mt. Gox in 2014, as well as being involved in other crypto-related criminal activity.

After several ruling and re-rulings, the French authorities eventually got first shot and Vinnik was extradited to the country in December 2020 where he was found guilty of money laundering and sentenced to five years in prison and a €100,000 ($121,375) fine. He was, however, found not guilty of two other more serious crimes.

America, Russia, or Greece for Vinnik?

With America pressing hard for Vinnik, and with a French cassation court recently dismissing an appeal filed by his defence against the transfer, France seemed set to send Vinnik back to Greece, where he was arrested and held before his French adventure.

However, Russian authorities are thought to be back in the fight too, with representatives trying to secure Vinnik’s extradition prior to him being sent back to Greece, where the legal system appears to be a much more complex beast to deal with.

Whatever happens to Vinnik now, it’s clear that his French prison stay, while shorter than he had anticipated, represents only the first of three suitors waiting to try him for financial crimes.

Vinnik will have a hard time choosing – American prisons are no fun, especially for Russians right now, but Greek officials foiled a Russian-based assasination attempt while Vinnik was sitting in an Athens jail, so that’s no picnic either.