Alleged Bitcoin Scammer Alexander Vinnik Seeks Protection in Russia, Fears for His Life

Vinnik promises information on financial crimes, in exchange for protection in his home country Russia.

by Nina Dimitrova
18 May • 2 mins
In News

Russian national Alexander Vinnik, arrested last year for allegedly laundering billions of US dollars in Bitcoins through his exchange BTC-e, said he fears for his life and pleads with his home country for protection, Russian news agency RIA Novosti reported on Thursday.

Currently, US authorities are seeking the extradition of Vinnik, who is being held in Greece, for suspicions of fraud, cybercrimes and laundering of billions of dollars through the BTC-e platform. Vinnik was arrested last summer while on holiday in Greece, upon the request of US law enforcement. Currently Vinnik is held in custody, while Greek court hearings on the US extradition request are continuing.

Through his lawyer, Vinnik told RIA Novosti that only Russia can protect him and that he fears for his life in the Greek prison. He claims he has received death threats and has been placed in special protection.

In his request for protection, Vinnik pledges he would, in exchange, cooperate with Russian authorities and provide his expertise in the cryptocurrency field. He also said he had information of major financial crimes, which he is willing to share with the authorities. Russian authorities have also requested Vinnik’s extradition over lesser charges for stealing some USD 10 000 from an unidentified entity "using... deception and the internet".

Meanwhile, US authorities have not given up their attempts to get to Vinnik. “The US special services are trying to get him to agree on a deal. A brief stint in prison, in exchange for admitting guilt and cooperation”, a source told RIA Novosti. Vinnik, however, is strongly against it and maintains the charges are fabricated.

The US accuses Vinnik of fraud and laundering between USD 4 and 9 billion through BTC-e and also funds from the hacking and robbing of Japanese cryptocurrency exchange Mt. Gox in 2014. Vinnik, who faces up to 55 years in US jail, claims he was only a technical maintenance guy at BTC-e.