Court Approves Alleged Bitcoin Fraudster Alexander Vinnik’s Extradition To France

Kevin O'Brien

The Greek Supreme Court has ordered alleged Bitcoin fraudster Alexander Vinnik extradited to France, after reports said the country lodged a European Arrest Warrant against the BTC-e exchange operator.

Vinnik was accused of running a money laundering scheme through the exchange that ranged from between $4 billion to $9 billion dollars, according to TASS.

Eyewitness News reported the warrant from French authorities asserted he defrauded at 100 people across six French cities between 2016 to 2018. He has been detained in Greece since his arrest in July 2017.

A Long Legal Battle

There has been a lot of legal wrangling about where Vinnik should be extradited to.

In 2017, Greece’s Supreme Court ruled in favor of his extradition to the United States, but later changed its mind and decided to have him sent to Russia.

Vinnik told his legal representatives in November how he would undergo a hunger strike to protest the arbitrary nature of Greek judges. He indicated he would only cease his strike if he were to be extradited to Moscow.

TASS said the Thessaloniki Court of First Instance also ruled to extradite Vinnik to France in conjunction with the Greek Supreme Court. The Supreme Court rejected an appeal of the verdict on Wednesday lodged by Vinnik’s defence team.

Lawyer Timofey Musatov said he would send out petitions to postpone the extradition decision due to the poor state of Vinnik’s health amid the hunger strike.

TASS said the ultimate decision about Vinnik’s extradition would have to be made by Greece’s Minister of Justice or potentially other top leadership due to the varying requests by different countries.

BTC-e Reborn And Under Controversy

CryptoGlobe reported in October about the woes faced by the World Exchange Services (WEX) exchange, a rebrand of BTC-e after it was shuttered by authorities. Some users started to file police reports due to the exchange holding funds for several months.

Others have complained about high prices for those who were looking to cash out - that are significantly different from more mainstream exchanges. Questions have also been lingering about the actual owner of the exchange amid rumors of a sale.

Photo courtesy of AFP 

Venezuela Suspends Free Fuel Amid Shortages, Petro (PTR) an Option for Payment

Colin Muller

According to a missive from the Venezuelan government, citizens will be able to pay for gasoline in the national Petro (PTR) cryptocurrency, in addition to U.S. dollars.

The switch comes amid a larger move from the socialist government, ending its long-standing free gasoline subsidies to citizens amid shortages that have recently hit the country. The Financial Times reports that Venezuelans will still receive 60 liters a month for almost free, at $0.02 per liter—enough to fill an average car twice.

Anything more than that will have to be purchased at close to market price, about $0.50 per liter, and only at one of 200 government approved gasoline stations.

Patria Cards

Moreover, in order to be eligible for this subsidised gas, Venezuelans are obliged to sign up to receive their Patria—Fatherland—card. Many citizens have bristled at the prospect of being forced onto this government program, seeing it as an intrusive method of government control.

Indeed, use of the Patria card goes through a government system called the Sistema Biopago, or “Bio-pay System”, a biometric identity system.

Once an oil-producing country, mismanagement of Venezuela’s nationalized oil industry over the last two decades has resulted in a precipitous fall in production.

In addition, relentless US sanctions in recent years on oil from Venezuela have helped to cripple the country’s economy; and the recent historic collapse in the price of oil, following a collapse in global demand caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, seems to have been the straw on Venezuela’s back.

Featured Image Credit: Photo via Pixabay.com