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Lawyer: Russian Accused In Massive Bitcoin Theft Abruptly Extradited To France

Aleksandr Vinnik appears at a court hearing in Athens on November 6.
Aleksandr Vinnik appears at a court hearing in Athens on November 6.

A Russian man wanted by the United States for a massive bitcoin-theft scheme has been extradited from Greece to France, the latest development in a multinational legal fight that focused attention on cryptocurrency money laundering.

In a post to Facebook on January 23, Aleksandr Vinnik's lawyer asserted that his client had been kidnapped, and suggested he had been sent to France without her knowledge.

Zoe Konstantopoulou also said Vinnik was in a Paris hospital, adding that he was "exhausted" and not fit for questioning.

Konstantopoulou did not immediately respond to an e-mail seeking further comment.

Vinnik has been identified by U.S. and other authorities as an administrator or manager of a "digital-currency exchange" -- where people can buy and sell cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin and others -- known as BTC-e.

He was arrested on a U.S. arrest warrant in 2017 on a Greek beach where he was vacationing with his family.

According to the U.S. Justice Department, Vinnik, now 39, was allegedly the mastermind behind an international money-laundering scheme that had processed over $4 billion in cryptocurrency transactions, including bitcoin stolen from another digital-currency exchange known as Mt. Gox.

The United States has fought in Greek court to have Vinnik extradited, but Russia filed a competing extradition request, saying he faced smaller, unrelated criminal charges in Russia.

Midway through the legal fight, however, France also lodged an extradition request in Greek court on similar theft charges.

Vinnik is one of seven Russians detained or indicted worldwide last year on U.S. cybercrime charges.

A Greek court had approved Vinnik's extradition to the United States in December 2017, but other courts issued competing rulings, prompting Greece's justice minister to step in to decide where he should be sent.

Greek authorities had no immediate comment on reports of Vinnik's extradition.

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