A panel of judges in Greece on October 11 accepted Russia's request for the extradition of a Russian cybercrime suspect also being sought by the United States for allegedly masterminding a $4 billion bitcoin money-laundering scheme.
The decision is at odds with a ruling last week by a different panel of judges in the city of Thessaloniki, which had agreed to send Aleksandr Vinnik to the United States to face charges of laundering bitcoins through a digital currency exchange to facilitate crimes ranging from computer hacking to drug trafficking.
The latest ruling extends a legal tug-of-war between Russia and the United States over Vinnik, 37, who was arrested in July during a holiday in Greece following a U.S. request.
Lawyers said the final decision on Vinnik will rest with Greece's justice minister once the suspect has exhausted the process of appealing his extradition to the United States.
Vinnik is one of seven Russians arrested or indicted this year on U.S. cybercrime charges. Russia has complained repeatedly about the detention of Russian citizens while traveling abroad, accusing U.S. officials of "kidnapping" them.
Russia filed its extradition request for Vinnik after the U.S. request and has accused him of a lesser 667,000 ruble ($11,500) fraud which, if upheld in court, could draw a maximum prison sentence of six years.
Vinnik denies both sets of charges, but his lawyer said he wants to be tried in Russia. He has appealed his U.S. extradition, and Greece's Supreme Court is expected to rule on that appeal in the coming weeks.
"That is his wish -- to be extradited to Russia and to give his account before the Russian judicial authorities," Alexandros Lykourezos, the lawyer leading Vinnik's defense, told reporters after the latest court ruling on October 11.
Vinnik was indicted by a U.S. grand jury in July on an array of charges that include money laundering, identity theft, and facilitating drug trafficking.
U.S. prosecutors said Vinnik "helped to launder criminal proceeds from syndicates around the world."
Vinnik has told Greek judges that he was a technical consultant to the digital currency exchange and not its operator.
He faces up to 55 years in prison if convicted on the U.S. charges.
With reporting by AP, AFP, Reuters, and Interfax