Frédéric Bélot, one of Alexander Vinnik’s lawyers, wants his client imprisoned in the United States to be transferred to Russia. He hopes that negotiations will open between the two countries.
Frédéric Bélot does not want to let go. The French lawyer for the Russian Alexander Vinnik accused of laundering more than “four billion dollars in criminal proceeds” via the BTC-e cryptocurrency exchange platform, wants to transfer his client imprisoned in the United States to Russia. On Monday, he sent an email to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov asking him to start talks for a “prisoner exchange” between Russia and the United States.
“A political case”
“For the United States, the case of Mr. Vinnik is not a legal dispute, but a political one. Today, the only thing that can save Alexander is for the Russian Federation to enter into negotiations with the American authorities in the framework of the exchange of prisoners between the countries mentioned”, specifies the letter of the lawyer, which BFM Crypto was able to consult.
Contacted by us, Frédéric Bélot estimates that his client, aged 43, risks up to 55 years in prison in the United States. As a reminder, Alexander Vinnik was arrested on July 25, 2017 in Greece by an American arrest warrant accusing him of being the co-founder and administrator of the BTC-e cryptocurrency trading platform.
The platform is accused of having “facilitated transactions for cybercriminals around the world” by “allowing its users to exchange bitcoins with a high level of anonymity”, according to American justice. Alexander Vinnik was then handed over to France in January 2020, where he was sentenced to five years in prison in 2021 for money laundering by the Court of Cassation.
A month ago, on August 4, he was extradited to Greece during the afternoon, then to the United States overnight, said the lawyer.
“As he has already been convicted in France for the money laundering offense and acquitted of 13 other offenses and under the principle of international law non bis in idem, he cannot be convicted for the same offenses in Russia (and therefore in the States United)”, specifies the lawyer to BFM Crypto.
In Russia, the latter is accused of fraud for an amount of 9500 euros. In his letter, the lawyer highlights the fragile state of health of his client imprisoned since 2017, father of two children and who lost his 34-year-old wife in 2020.
Positions on bitcoin against American supremacy
At the beginning of bitcoin’s creation, there were few cryptocurrency exchanges to trade bitcoin, with BTC-e finding itself in competition with the Japanese cryptocurrency exchange Mt Gox. Founded in 2011, BTC-e was shut down in 2017 by the United States, at the same time Alexander Vinnik was arrested.
“My client was manipulated by the BTC-e platform. Whenever he questioned the legality of what he was doing on the BTC-e platform, the platform administrator (who appeared under the nickname ‘ admin’) replied that everything was legal. There were no regulations on bitcoin at the time of the events in Russia. His fault was to work for people he did not know”, explains his lawyer at BFM Crypto.
At the time, Alexander Vinnik “was on social media to take political positions on bitcoin against the supremacy of the US dollar and made it clear that he was working for the platform”, admits his lawyer. This is why he was easily identified by the FBI and arrested while he was on vacation in Greece with his family, adds the latter.