Putin steps in over alleged crypto money launderer wanted by the US

Russian citizen Alexandr Vinnik, 37, was arrested in Greece in July 2017 at the request of the US

Russian President Vladimir Putin has reportedly spoken to the Greek prime minister over an alleged cryptocurrency launderer wanted by Moscow, France, and the US.

Alexandr Vinnik, 37, a Russian citizen, was arrested in Greece in July 2017 at the request of Washington.

He is accused of laundering billions of dollars through now-defunct crypto exchange BTC-e.

Putin raised the matter with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras during talks in Moscow in December, reports RIA Novosti.

US prosecutors estimate Vinnik helped launder between $4 billion and $9 billion in Bitcoin tied to cybercrime, the drug trade, and other criminal enterprises.

The indictment described his operation as “one of the primary ways by which cybercriminals around the world transferred, laundered, and stored the criminal proceeds of their illegal activities.”

Vinnik’s Russian defense lawyer, Timofey Musatov, disagrees.

He told Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), a non-profit investigative reporting platform, that BTC-e is “simply a platform.”

Extradition

He said: “It’s just a website that allows people to use new technology and digital currency, which only recently became exchangeable for fiat money.

“You call it an ‘exchange,’ but it’s not a financial exchange similar to stock or currency exchanges.”

RIA reports Vinnik has been on a hunger strike since November to protest “violations of his right to justice” and wants to be extradited to Russia, claiming he is a political prisoner.

Crypto is only a tiny part of the multi-trillion dollar global laundering operation, but it is growing, US authorities claim, because it is easy and anonymous.

Authorities throughout the world are stepping up powers to prevent money laundering using cryptocurrencies.

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