Russian Prisoner Allegedly Involved in Bitcoin Fraud Case Goes on Hunger Strike

  • Russian citizen, Alexander Vinnik, has reportedly gone on hunger strike.
  • Vinnik, who is allegedly involved in a billion dollar bitcoin (BTC) money laundering case, is protesting what he thinks is Greece's unfair legal system.

Alexander Vinnik, a Russian citizen who was arrested last year in Greece due to his alleged involvement in a bitcoin (BTC) fraud case related to the now-defunct BTC-e exchange, has reportedly decided to go on a hunger strike.

Conflicting Extradition Requests

Vinnik, who was taken into police custody following requests by the US government, told his legal representatives on Monday (November 19) that he would go on a hunger strike. In 2017, the Supreme Court of Greece had ruled in favor of extraditing Vinnik to the US, however, then later decided to extradite him to the Russian Federation.

In June 2018, France sent a search arrest warrant for Vinnik to Greece’s authorities and on November 19, Greece’s Supreme Court held formal discussions regarding whether to extradite Vinnik to France. However, the court has now postponed the hearing on the matter to November 29.

"Stripped Of The Right For Defense"

Commenting on the situation, Timofey Musatov, Vinnik’s lawyer, said: 

Alexander Vinnik decided to go on a hunger strike because he realized he was stripped of the right for defense in France and, consequently, in Greece. Moreover, it became clear that the European arrest warrant [issued by France] expired.

Musatov explained that the type of search warrant France had sent was no longer valid as it was issued over 90 days ago and had passed its expiration date. He also alleged:

The Greek Supreme Court's judge completely ignores the work of lawyers who cannot even file a petition. She does not give them an opportunity to speak or do it. After observing this situation, Alexander realized that he would either get a fair trial or die.

Musatov continued:

If there is no fair trial, he will inevitably be deported to the United States through France, where he will get something close to a life sentence, which equals death.

Vinnik Does "Not Want To Put With This" Any More

Vinnik’s lawyer added that his client did “not want to put with this” any longer - especially “considering the fact that” Zoe Konstantopoulou (Vinnik’s lawyer in Greece) “openly” stated during the November 19th session of Greek’s Supreme Court “that the [country’s] court would not treat any citizen of an EU member country or Greece as it treats Alexander.”

Musatov also believes that ”just because [Vinnik] is a Russian national ... he does not have any other options and decided to go on a hunger strike on Monday in protest against this situation."

Vinnik Allegedly Involved In Laundering Billions Through BTC-e

On July 25, 2017, Vinnik had been taken into custody by Greece’s authorities - after the US had requested that they investigate the matter and detain the alleged offender. Notably, Vinnik has been accused of laundering between $4-9 billion via the controversial BTC-e exchange (now rebranded as World Exchange Services or WEX - which is also under investigation).

More than likely, Greece’s higher authority, the Office of the Minister of Justice, will be reviewing Vinnik’s case - as it now involves conflicting extradition requests from different authorities (US, Russia, and France).