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Greece Backs Extradition Of Russian To U.S. Over Bitcoin Fraud


Aleksandr Vinnik is escorted by police officers while leaving a court in Thessaloniki on September 29.
Aleksandr Vinnik is escorted by police officers while leaving a court in Thessaloniki on September 29.

A Greek tribunal has approved a U.S. request for the extradition of a Russian cybercrime suspect, the second such order made against a Russian citizen by a European court this week.

Both Moscow and Washington had been fighting over the extradition of Aleksandr Vinnik and other Russian citizens who have been caught up in a U.S. law enforcement dragnet targeting alleged cybercriminals around the world.

Russia has complained repeatedly about the detention of Russian citizens while traveling abroad, accusing U.S. officials of "kidnapping" them.

A three-judge court in the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki ruled on October 4 that Vinnik, 37, should be sent to the United States, where authorities accuse him of running a multibillion-dollar digital money-laundering network.

Vinnik, who has denied the charges, was arrested while on vacation in Greece in July.

Russia, which also requested Vinnik's extradition, reacted quickly to the Greek decision.

"We are categorically against the extradition of our nationals to foreign countries, in this case to the U.S.," Deputy Foreign Minister Alexei Meshkov was quoted by Russian news agencies as saying.

Vinnik's lawyers were cited as saying he would not contest the Russian request, which will also be heard by a Greek court.

Other Arrests

A day earlier, a court in Spain authorized the extradition of Pyotr Levashov, who is accused by U.S. authorities of running a massive computer bot that sent tens of millions of spam e-mails over many years.

Levashov, 37, was arrested by Spanish police in Barcelona in April while he was vacationing with his family.

Russian news reports said Levashov's lawyers had three days to appeal the court decision.

Other Russians have been caught up in legal proceedings in European courts including Yevgeniy Nikulin, who is awaiting a decision by Czech justice officials on whether he will be sent to the United States or Russia to stand trial on similar computer-hacking charges.

Another Russian, Roman Seleznev, pleaded guilty earlier this month in U.S. court for participating in what U.S. authorities said was a cybertheft ring that allegedly stole over $50 million using hacked credit-card information. Seleznev was arrested in 2014 by U.S. agents as he tried to enter the Maldives on vacation.

The aggressive U.S. pursuit of hackers and alleged cybercriminals from Russia and elsewhere dates back several years.

Some of the hackers have been tied by U.S. intelligence to more politically motivated cybercrimes, possibly done at the behest of the Russian security agencies, such as the Federal Security Service (FSB).

Seleznev at one point bragged about his "protection" by the FSB's main cybercrime division, according to U.S. law enforcement documents filed in federal court.

With reporting by Interfax
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    Mike Eckel

    Mike Eckel is a senior correspondent reporting on political and economic developments in Russia, Ukraine, and around the former Soviet Union, as well as news involving cybercrime and espionage. He's reported on the ground on Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the wars in Chechnya and Georgia, and the 2004 Beslan hostage crisis, as well as the annexation of Crimea in 2014.

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