Lawyers for Alexander Vinnik, accused of laundering between $4 billion and $9 billion through the BTC-e cryptocurrency exchange, are preparing to appeal the verdict of a Paris court.
In the summer of 2017, Vinnik was detained in Greece at the request of the US Attorney’s Office. Earlier this year, Vinnik was extradited to France, and only in August the case was transferred to a Paris court. The court hearing lasted from October 19 to 23. On December 7, a court in Paris sentenced Vinnik to five years in prison and a fine of €100,000, including compensation to the affected parties.
The court cleared Vinnik of part of the charges of money laundering and completely rejected the charges of using the malicious encryption virus Loki (Locky) to conduct cyber attacks. However, the court found the Russian citizen a member of the criminal community, as well as guilty of money laundering through the BTC-e exchange. During the court hearings, Vinnik denied his guilt.
Vinnik’s defense intends to appeal the court’s decision. A member of the Paris Bar Association, Frederic Belo, who is involved in the Vinnik case, believes that the Russian suffered from his anonymous employers from the VTS-e exchange. The lawyer stated that there was no evidence that Vinnik really took part in the creation of this exchange and its management. He was an ordinary professional working for a salary, and did not knowingly participate in any money laundering operations. The defense insists that the charges against Vinnik are based on documents provided by American law enforcement agencies. Therefore, it is not excluded that the US intelligence services could interfere in the investigation conducted in Greece.
“Alexander Vinnik is accused of participating in a criminal community. But there is not a single criminal group consisting of one person. At the court hearing, no names were given of people who could presumably be members of such a community,” said French lawyer Frederic Belo.
Belo added that Vinnik is in a serious psychological state due to the death of his wife, who died from a serious illness. Vinnik never managed to see her, and his children live with relatives. Vinnik can be extradited to the United States, where he will face another trial, and possibly a sentence of 50 years. However, Belo said that it is necessary to wait for the appeal to be considered, and this can take about four months.