A Russian national accused of laundering billions of dollars using Bitcoin is now facing extradition to the United States.
Alexander Vinnik, 37, who headed BTC-e, an exchange he operated for the cyber currency, was indicted in the U.S. in July on 21 charges ranging from identity theft and facilitating drug trafficking to money laundering. A Greek court judge issued the extradition ruling Wednesday.
Vinnik said he would appeal the ruling. The final decision on whether to extradite Vinnik will be made by the Greek Supreme Court justice minister.
Vinnik has been in a jail in Greece since his arrest July 25 in the tourist resort of Halkidiki.
Vinnik “stole identities, facilitated drug trafficking, and helped to launder criminal proceeds from syndicates around the world,” according to the Departmet of Justice.
BTC-e, founded in 2011, became one of the world’s largest and most widely used digital currency exchanges, but according to the U.S. indictment, it was “heavily reliant on criminals”.
In addition, BTC-e “was noted for its role in numerous ransomware and other cyber-criminal activity,” receiving more than $4 billion (3.4 billion euros) worth of Bitcoin over the course of its operation.
Vinnik was also charged with receiving funds from the hack of Mt. Gox — an earlier digital currency exchange that eventually failed, in part due to losses attributable to hacking.
The Treasury Department has fined BTC-e $110 million for “wilfully violating” U.S. anti-money laundering laws, and Vinnik $12 million.