Alexander Vinnik, the alleged operator of BTC-e cryptocurrency exchange, has confessed to the laundering of billions of US dollars worth of Bitcoin. According to Interfax, the admission of guilt has been received by the Prosecutor General’s Office of the Russian Federation and is being transferred to the Moscow police department in the Ostankino district.
BTC-e was a major Bitcoin and cryptocurrency exchange from its launch in 2011 until its forced closure in July 2017. United States authorities seized the website’s domain name and 38% of all customer funds on 28 July 2017, and since then the exchange has been closed. BTC-e was indicted for operating an illegal international money laundering scheme, including laundering of Bitcoins from Japan-based exchange Mt Gox hack, the largest Bitcoin theft in history.
Three days before BTC-e was shut down and customer funds were seized, Vinnik was arrested while on vacation in Greece at the request of the United States. He was accused of laundering between USD 4 billion and USD 9 billion in cryptocurrency. He has already been hit with a fine of USD 12 million from FinCEN in the US.
Although BTC-e originally released a statement saying Vinnik was not an employee of the exchange, he has since admitted that he was a technical consultant for the exchange, and now admits he was in charge. He has sent four letters admitting his guilt to the head of Russia’s ministry of internal affairs, the ministry’s chief investigator, and the Prosecutor General of Russia. He claims responsibility for RUB 750 million worth of damage to Russian citizens between 2011 and 2017 as well as for a large amount of computer information fraud.
He has offered to help Russian authorities with the investigation and this has apparently almost cost him his life. Local media reported that Russian criminals conspired to poison him before he could get to court in Russia and testify. Since the poisoning attempt, he has been put under a special lockdown at the Greek prison where is staying; no one can come into contact with him or give him food besides the prison guards.
The United States and Russia have been fighting for the right to extradite Alexander Vinnik to their respective countries. In January 2018, he submitted an application for asylum in Greece, saying the charges were politically motivated. Before he can be extradited, the asylum request must be decided on by the Justice Minister of Greece.
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