Russian Bitcoin launderer will serve 5 years after losing French appeal
A Paris court has refused to overturn hacker Alexander Vinnik’s five-year prison sentence for laundering billions of dollars in stolen Bitcoin, reports Russian news outlet Kommersant.
Last December, Vinnik was found guilty of washing Bitcoin through defunct crypto exchange BTC-e, which he co-founded in 2011.
Some of that crypto came as a result of the now-legendary Mt. Gox hack in 2014. US prosecutors claim Vinnik helped launder between $4 billion and $9 billion in Bitcoin.
Vinnik was arrested Greece while on holiday in July 2017 and later extradited to France in mid-2020.
His lawyers announced in May they intended to appeal the sentence.
At the time of his arrest, the US and France accused Vinnik of masterminding the “Locky” ransomware campaign.
Locky scammed an estimated $160 million in Bitcoin from 5,700 victims between 2016 and 2018. However, those charges were eventually dropped, formally clearing Vinnik of involvement in Locky.
In response to Vinnik’s lost appeal, his lawyers reportedly labeled the court’s decision “lazy,” and said judges failed to properly investigate the charges.
US wants Vinnik for laundering Bitcoin, too
Vinnik’s legal team is now prepping for its next fight — preventing extradition to the US.
As relayed by Bitcoin.com, Vinnik’s defence fears Greece will claw him back after serving time in France, opening doors for the US to extradite him over money laundering.
Speaking about the potential extradition, lawyer Frédéric Bélot said any trial in the US would take place “in extreme” condition (as in, not European).
But it’s not just France and the US. Vinnik’s home nation of Russia — which has charged him with the lesser crime of computer fraud — is also keen for the IT specialist.
[Read more: FATF suspicious of $70B in crypto flowing through ‘blockchain island’ Malta]
While five years in the clink is rough, it wasn’t all bad news for Vinnik. The Paris court agreed to waive a $121,000 fine related to his original sentence, said Cointelegraph.
However, New Zealand already seized $90 million from a company registered to Vinnik last year. At the time, it was the country’s largest ever criminal seizure in history.