Alexander Vinnik, the man suspected of laundering some of the stolen Mt. Gox BTC, will likely remain in France to face money laundering charges, despite his extradition being sought by the US. The former owner of the BTC-e exchange, who has been the victim of a three-way extradition battle since his arrest in 2017, will finally face justice, and may finally offer answers as to what happened to the stolen Mt. Gox BTC.
France Gets First Shot at Prosecution
Vinnik has been the subject of repeated extradition requests by France and the US since his arrest in Greece in 2017, while Russia, the country of Vinnik’s birth, has been trying to repatriate him. A Greek judge eventually decided last week that French authorities should get the first crack at prosecuting Vinnik, who is accused of laundering $4-$9 billion through his cryptocurrency exchange BTC-e, and as a result he was extradited last Thursday.
Vinnik Being “Persecuted”
French investigators began interrogating Vinnik the day he arrived in the country, with his lawyers claiming that he is being “persecuted” and that his only crime “is to be Russian and a person with extraordinary technological knowledge that could liberate people economically”. In fact, Vinnik has been charged by Paris prosecutors with extortion, conspiracy, aggravated money laundering, and harming automatic data-processing systems, which is a slightly longer list of crimes than those his lawyers attest to.
Vinnik’s Future Looking Bleak
Vinnik founded BTC-e in 2011 but it was shuttered six years later by the FBI, who charged Vinnik with laundering billions of dollars in stolen BTC through the exchange, including some of the stolen BTC from Mt. Gox. Were Vinnik to be acquitted by French courts or be found guilty and serve a sentence, he would likely be extradited to the US immediately upon his release, meaning that he will spend most of the next decade either in prison, on trial, or awaiting it.