Alexander Vinnik

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Alexander Vinnik
Александр Винник
Born
Alexander Vinnik

c. 1979[1]
Other namesSasha WME[1]
CitizenshipRussian
Known forBTC-e
Conviction(s)Money laundering
Criminal charge
  • Money laundering
  • Extortion
[2][3]
Penalty5 years in prison

Alexander Vinnik (Russian: Александр Винник) is a Russian computer expert. From 2011 to 2017, he worked at BTC-e, a Russian cryptocurrency exchange. He is currently serving a five year prison sentence in France for money laundering.

BTC-e[edit]

Vinnik is alleged to have directed and supervised the operations and finances of the BTC-e cryptocurrency exchange from 2011 to 2017.[4]

In 2020 the London-based cryptocurrency analysis firm, Elliptic, believes that BTC-e may have been used by Fancy Bear during the 2015–2016 Democratic National Committee cyber attacks.[5]

Arrest[edit]

On July 25, 2017, Vinnik was arrested in Greece at the request of the U.S. on suspicion of laundering $4 billion through BTC-e.[6] Vinnik has denied the charges.[7]

In late July 2017, the U.S. requested Vinnik's extradition from Greece.[8] In early October 2017, his extradition was requested by the Prosecutor General of Russia.[9] In late June 2018, France requested his extradition, accusing him of fraud.[10] In early July 2018, Russia submitted a new extradition request, reportedly based on a confession to additional hacking offenses.[11]

In November 2018, Vinnik went on a three-month hunger strike in protest of his detainment in Greece.[12]

In January 2020, Vinnik was extradited to France.[13] In June 2020, New Zealand Police announced the seizure of $90 million from WME Capital Management, a company in New Zealand registered to Vinnik.[14][15]

Sentencing[edit]

In December 2020, Vinnik was acquitted on involvement with the Locky ransomware charges, but was sentenced to five years in prison for money laundering.[16]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Lloyd, Timothy (24 January 2019). "US and Russia Spar Over Accused Crypto-Launderer". OCCRP.
  2. ^ "France charges bitcoin expert Vinnik with money laundering". Associated Press. January 24, 2020. Archived from the original on June 28, 2020. French officials have filed preliminary charges of money laundering and extortion against Russian bitcoin fraud suspect Alexander Vinnik, who’s tangled in a multi-country legal battle.
  3. ^ Sebag, Gaspard (January 28, 2020). "Russian Bitcoin Suspect Charged in France After Greek Extradition". Bloomberg News. Archived from the original on June 27, 2020. In France, Vinnik was charged with extortion, aggravated money laundering, conspiracy, and harming automatic data-processing systems, according to an official at the Paris prosecutor’s office.
  4. ^ "USA V. BTC-e and VINNIK". Northern District of California. July 26, 2017. Since at least approximately 2011 through and including the present, both dates being approximate and inclusive, the defendant BTC-e operated as one of the world's largest and most widely used digital currency exchanges. Since its inception, BTC-e was an exchange for cybercriminals worldwide, and one of the principal entities used to launder and liquidate criminal proceeds from digital currencies, including Bitcoin, to fiat currency, including U.S. dollars, Euros, and Rubles. At all relevant times, the defendant ALEXANDER VINNIK, together with individuals known and unknown, directed and supervised BTC-e's operations and finances.
  5. ^ Chrepa, Eleni; Kharif, Olga; Mehrotra, Kartikay (September 14, 2018). "Bitcoin Suspect Could Shed Light on Russian Mueller Targets". Bloomberg News. Archived from the original on February 20, 2020. The expert, Russian citizen Alexander Vinnik, was detained last year after U.S. prosecutors in San Francisco accused him of supervising a digital-currency exchange that helped criminals launder billions of dollars. That exchange, according to cryptocurrency analysis firm Elliptic, handled some Bitcoins traced to Fancy Bear, a hacking unit. Fancy Bear is one of the names for the Russian military intelligence officers who Mueller separately accuses of stealing and releasing Democrats’ emails to sway votes in the 2016 elections. [...] Elliptic used details provided in the indictment, such as a transfer of exactly 0.026043 Bitcoin on Feb. 1, 2016, to search the electronic register of all Bitcoin transactions -- known as the blockchain -- to find specific payments. It then used software it has developed to identify the origin of the funds for those transactions. “There was a strong link between much of the funds allegedly used by the Fancy Bear group and BTC-e," said Tom Robinson, Elliptic’s chief data officer. “What I can’t say for certain is whether Fancy Bear obtained them directly from BTC-e, or whether there was an intermediary."
  6. ^ "Russian National And Bitcoin Exchange Charged In 21-Count Indictment For Operating Alleged International Money Laundering Scheme And Allegedly Laundering Funds From Hack Of Mt. Gox". United States Department of Justice. July 26, 2017. Archived from the original on July 27, 2017. Vinnik was arrested in Greece on July 25. [...] The investigation has revealed that BTC-e received more than $4 billion worth of bitcoin over the course of its operation.
  7. ^ "Alexander Vinnik: Arrest abroad threatens all Russian IT specialists". RIA Novosti. November 16, 2017. Archived from the original on June 25, 2020. The Americans accuse me of laundering either four, then six, or nine billion dollars. The amount is constantly changing. They themselves do not know. MTC took up the exchange, because it is organized in Russia. I do not know what they want. Maybe find some Russian trace. America and Russia have strained relations, everyone knows that. They are constantly abducting Russian citizens. I didn’t hide from justice. I traveled abroad under my name. Under my name I was doing business. What they accuse me of is complete nonsense. This, firstly, is impossible to do for one person. Secondly, they even violate their laws, the charge is made in violation of American laws. And from a technical point of view, the charge is very unprofessional.
  8. ^ "Bitcoin fraud suspect arrested in Greece". BBC. July 26, 2017. Archived from the original on July 26, 2017. Police said 38-year-old Alexander Vinnik was held on a US warrant near the northern city of Thessaloniki.
  9. ^ Zakharov, Andrey (December 13, 2017). "Greek Supreme Court ruled to extradite Russian Vinnik". RBC. Archived from the original on June 27, 2020. In early October, the Council of Judges of Thessaloniki granted the request of the US Department of Justice for the extradition of Vinnik, but the defense challenged him in Areopagus. At the same time, the Russian Prosecutor General’s Office also asked for the extradition: in August, the Ostankino District Court arrested him in absentia in a large-scale criminal case of fraud (up to 1 million rubles). Russia's request was also granted by a Greek court in October; Vinnik does not object to extradition to his homeland.
  10. ^ "France asks to extradite Alexander Vinnik earlier arrested in Greece". Crime Russia. June 27, 2018. Archived from the original on October 21, 2018. France demands to extradite Alexander Vinnik, who was arrested at the request of the United States in Athens. The requirement has already been sent to Greece by a French prosecutor. According to the document, the Russian is accused of committing fraudulent actions, because of which the citizens of France suffered.
  11. ^ Lymar, Julia (July 13, 2018). "Greek court decides to extradite Russian Alexander Vinnik to France". RBC. Archived from the original on June 27, 2018. At the beginning of July 2018, the Russian Prosecutor General sent a new request to Greece to extradite Vinnik to Greece. The agency reported that in March and April 2018, he appealed to the investigating authorities of Russia with a plea of confession and admitted to hacker attacks and money laundering on a particularly large scale.
  12. ^ "Defense lawyers to seek reversal of decision to extradite Vinnik to US or France". TASS. July 29, 2019. Archived from the original on June 27, 2020. On November 26, 2018, Vinnik went on hunger strike against judicial outrage. He claims to be a political prisoner and demands that the Greek authorities let him return to his home country. He stopped his hunger strike after three months and was hospitalized.
  13. ^ @mfa_russia (January 30, 2020). "#Zakharova On January 23, Greek authorities extradited Alexander #Vinnik to #France, despite his Russian citizenship and a competing extradition request from Russia. We will continue working to secure his rights and interests. We will insist that France extradite Vinnik to Russia" (Tweet). Archived from the original on June 27, 2020 – via Twitter.
  14. ^ @nzpolice (June 22, 2020). "New Zealand Police's Asset Recovery Unit has restrained NZD$140 million from Canton Business Corporation and its owner Alexander Vinnik who were holding funds in a New Zealand company. This is the largest restraint of funds in New Zealand Police history" (Tweet). Archived from the original on June 27, 2020 – via Twitter.
  15. ^ Perry, Nick (June 22, 2020). "New Zealand seizes $90M from Russian bitcoin fraud suspect". Associated Press. Archived from the original on June 28, 2020. New Zealand police said Monday they had restrained 140 million New Zealand dollars ($90 million) from Canton Business Corporation and its owner, Vinnik, who were holding funds in a New Zealand company.
  16. ^ Cimpanu, Catalin (December 7, 2020). "BTC-e founder sentenced to five years in prison for laundering ransomware funds". ZDNet. Archived from the original on January 15, 2021.