Alexander Vinnik has been charged with money laundering and extortion by French authorities.
Vinnik Will Spend More Time Behind Bars
Vinnik is believed to have laundered as much as $4 billion worth of bitcoin through a now defunct cryptocurrency exchange known as e-BTC. He was later arrested in 2017 while vacationing in Greece with his family per the requests of legislators in the United States. At that time, Vinnik was facing charges in both the U.S. and Russia.
At 39 years of age, Vinnik has established quite a criminal reputation. Aside from facing charges in France, he is also potentially set to face trial in both the U.S. and Russia, meaning his crimes could see him being sentenced in three separate countries. Vinnik has consistently stuck to claims the he is innocent; that he merely served as a technical consultant for e-BTC, and that he was not involved in – nor did he possess any knowledge of – illicit activity.
Vinnik spent roughly two years locked away in a jail cell in Greece, awaiting extradition which was finally granted last Thursday. He is currently being quested by judges in France and was handed the preliminary charges previously mentioned. Preliminary charges allow the judges time to investigate further while keeping the client locked away, and Vinnik will spend the investigation period in a French prison.
While waiting in Greece, Vinnik went on a hunger strike that lasted 35 days as a means of protesting his being sent to face justice in France. He instead wished to face charges in Russia, where the consequences would likely be less severe.
Upon arrival to France, Vinnik was quickly transferred to a hospital due to the hunger strike, where he was worked on by doctors. Additional details are not known at this time.
Greece has ultimately decided that Vinnik will spend time first in France, then be sent to the U.S. and Russia where he will face additional charges.
Crypto Crime Is Too Common
It’s a sad fact that cryptocurrencies, while promising, give rise to numerous crimes and malicious activity given that they are largely unregulated. Digital currency legislation has come about in the last year or two, but only in small spurts. If cryptocurrency is to become mainstream and reach legitimate territory, worldwide legislation will be needed to ensure the right safety measures are in place for all traders in the present and the future.
The circumstances surrounding e-BTC are strangely similar with those of Mt. Gox, another ill-fated cryptocurrency exchange that was situated in Japan. In 2014, the exchange lost more than $400 million in bitcoin funds, and very few have ever been recovered. While CEO Mark Karpeles eventually faced prison time, the situation is no closer to being resolved today than it was six years ago.