Crypto exchange BTC-e’s alleged operator Alexander Vinnik may be a candidate for prisoner swap between the United States and Russia. That’s according to a statement by one of his lawyers for Russian media. The latest court hearing in Vinnik’s case has been postponed.
Russian Accused of Laundering Billions Through Crypto May Return Home, According to Lawyer
A lawyer for Alexander Vinnik, alleged operator of the infamous cryptocurrency exchange BTC-e, believes that his client may be considered for an exchange of prisoners between the United States and the Russian Federation.
David Rizk, who represents Vinnik in the U.S., commented on Vinnik’s potential return home in an interview with the RIA Novosti news agency, quoted by other Russian media and crypto news outlets. “I wouldn’t rule out that possibility,” he said.
The Russian IT specialist has been in U.S. custody since August, last year, when he was extradited from Greece. American authorities accuse him of laundering at least $4 billion through the now-defunct coin trading platform. If found guilty, the 43-year-old Russian faces up to 55 years in prison.
Alexander Vinnik was arrested while on vacation in Thessaloniki in 2017. Athens approved an extradition request filed by the United States but handed him over to France first, in December 2019, where he served a five-year sentence for money laundering before he was returned to Greece. French and Greek authorities have ignored Russia’s extradition requests.
In September, 2022, another member of Vinnik’s defense team, French lawyer Frederic Belot, urged the government in Moscow to add its citizen to a possible prisoner swap deal with Washington. In October, he also called on the Russian Patriarch Kirill to help “save” the crypto entrepreneur, whose health has been deteriorating after time spent in solitary confinement and a hunger strike.
In December, Russian media reported that Alexander Vinnik has applied for release on bail citing the delay of his trial. Last week, a scheduled court hearing via video call was postponed until Feb. 24 “due to confusion with the schedule in the prison” where he is held, according to the RIA Novosti report.
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Lubomir Tassev is a journalist from tech-savvy Eastern Europe who likes Hitchens’s quote: “Being a writer is what I am, rather than what I do.” Besides crypto, blockchain and fintech, international politics and economics are two other sources of inspiration.
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