Alexander Vinnik Starts U.S. Legal Fight

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  • Alexandr Vinnik last week appeared before a U.S. judge to answer money laundering claims
  • U.S. authorities say Vinnik laundered more than $4 billion in bitcoin for criminals, including the Mt. Gox hackers
  • Vinnik was released early from a Paris prison after being convicted of the same crime there

Alexandr Vinnik, the man who laundered hundreds of thousands of bitcoin for the Mt. Gox hackers between 2011 and 2014, has been extradited to the U.S. on money laundering charges following his early release from a Paris jail. Vinnik, who was unmasked by U.S. authorities in 2017, is finally in their custody five years later, having first thought they were going to get him in 2020.

U.S. Arrested Vinnik in 2017

U.S. authorities have been on Vinnik’s tail ever since identifying BTC-e, the exchange started in 2011, as a place where criminals, including the Mt. Gox hackers, laundered their stolen bitcoin. On July 25, 2017, while on holiday in Greece, Vinnik was arrested by undercover police on a U.S. arrest warrant, accused of laundering more than $4 billion, while BTC-e was seized and taken offline by the same authorities the same day.

U.S. officials faced an unexpected three year battle with French and Russian authorities over who should get first dibs to try him, with the Americans stealing a March and getting a Greek court to sign him over. Vinnik was so desperate to avoid going to the U.S. that he went on hunger strike, and eventually he was handed over to French police in January 2020.

Vinnik Has One Money Laundering Conviction Under his Belt

Vinnik was found guilty of money laundering in December 2020 and was sentenced to five years in prison, but he was released early, much to his presumed chagrin, with the U.S. sweeping in before the Russians were able to and flying him out to face justice in America.

Vinnik is charged in a 21-count indictment that dates from January 2017 and made his initial appearance on Friday in federal court in San Francisco before U.S. Magistrate Judge Sallie Kim. He faces up to 50 years in prison if found guilty.