Security

Russia, America dig into tug-of-war over Bitcoin laundering suspect

We want him! No, he's ours! Shut up!

By Andrew Silver

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Russia doesn't want America taking one of its nationals accused of running a $4bn Bitcoin laundering ring – Moscow wants him more.

The Russian foreign ministry said in a statement on Friday that a Greek court's decision to extradite Alexander Vinnik to the US is "unjust and a violation of international law".

The 38-year-old was arrested in Greece in July. Both the US and Moscow want him for suspected money laundering on the defunct BTC-e exchange.

Although Vinnik denies the charges from both countries, a Greek court gave the green light on Wednesday for his extradition to US, where the risk of up to 55 years in prison could become a reality if he is found guilty.

The catch is that Russia also has an extradition request in with Greece. The Russian foreign ministry is arguing that its request should take priority since Vinnik is a Russian national.

"The verdict is even more surprising in the context of the atmosphere of friendly relations between Russia and Greece," the statement added. "We hope the Greek authorities will consider the Russian Prosecutor General's Office request, and Russia's reasoning, and act in strict compliance with international law."

The Register has asked the Greek Ministry for Foreign Affairs and the US Department of Justice to comment, and will update this article if we hear back.

Reuters reports that Vinnik is appealing the Greek court's decision to the Greek Supreme Court. It is understood that he is willing to return to Russia. ®

Updated to add: The US Department of Justice contacted us after the publication of this story to say: "The United States is seeking the lawful extradition of Mr. Vinnik from Greece pursuant to the U.S.-Greek bilateral extradition treaty.”

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