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BTC-e operator Alexander Vinnik faces five years in prison

Hassan Maishera
A man in handcuffs

BTC-e operator Alexander Vinnik has been sentenced to five years in prison by a French appeals court and could face more charges if extradited to Russia

A court of appeals in Paris has sentenced one of the BTC-e founders to five years in prison. The court upheld the decision of a five-year prison term in the case against Alexander Vinnik. Russia is currently seeking his extradition, and if approved, he will face further charges there.

The five-year prison sentence was first issued in December 2020 after finding him guilty of money laundering as part of an organised criminal group. He was also accused of providing false information when asked about the origin of the proceeds.

In the latest ruling, the court dismissed requests from Vinnik’s defense team and also exempted the exchange founder from a fine of 100,000 Euros that was part of the original sentence in December.

He was originally charged with scamming roughly 200 people using ransomware. However, the court cleared him of those charges after the prosecution asked for a smaller fine as it would be tough for him to repay the victims of his crimes.

Despite the five-year prison term ruling, Vinnik’s defense team intends to file a cassation appeal within five days as stipulated by the regulations in France. Vinnik could face further charges if he is extradited to Russia.

The Russian government had requested extradition based on humanitarian grounds after Vinnik went on hunger strike in Greece three years ago. However, there are speculations that Russia’s extradition request could be fueled by the desire to prevent sensitive data regarding its intelligence operations from falling into the hands of a foreign government. If the extradition is approved, Vinnik will face charges of “fraud in the field of computer information” in Russia.

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