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Suspected Russian cryptocurrency launderer extradited to US

The alleged operator of the illicit cryptocurrency exchange BTC-e was extradited from Greece to the United States yesterday to face charges in the Northern District of California.

“After more than five years of litigation, Russian national Alexander Vinnik was extradited to the United States yesterday to be held responsible for the operation of BTC-e, a criminal cryptocurrency exchange, which laundered more than 4 billions of dollars in proceeds of crime,” the assistant attorney general said. Kenneth A. Polite, Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. “This extradition demonstrates the Department’s commitment to investigating and dismantling illicit cyber activity and would not have been possible without the hard work of the Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs. The Ministry of Justice thanks the Greek government, in particular the Ministry of Justice, for all their efforts to obtain the transfer of the accused to the United States.

Alexander Vinnik, 42, a Russian citizen, was charged with 21 counts in January 2017. Vinnik was taken into police custody in Greece in July 2017 at the request of the United States. He made his first appearance earlier today in federal court in San Francisco before U.S. Magistrate Judge Sallie Kim.

According to the indictment, Vinnik and his co-conspirators allegedly owned, operated and administered BTC-e, a major cybercrime and online money laundering entity that allowed its users to trade bitcoins with levels high levels of anonymity and to develop a highly dependent clientele. on criminal activity.

The indictment alleges that BTC-e facilitated transactions for cybercriminals around the world and received criminal proceeds from numerous computer intrusions and hacking incidents, ransomware scams, identity theft schemes, public officials corrupt and narcotics distribution networks, and has been used to facilitate crimes ranging from computer hacking, fraud, identity theft, tax refund fraud schemes, public corruption and drug trafficking . The investigation revealed that BTC-e received more than $4 billion worth of bitcoins during its operation.

Although it does substantial business in the United States, the indictment alleges that BTC-e was not registered as a money services business with the US Treasury Department, had no process anti-money laundering, no proper “know your customer” or “KYC verification” system, and no anti-money laundering program as required by federal law.

In 2017, FinCEN imposed a civil monetary penalty on BTC-e for willfully violating US anti-money laundering (AML) laws and on Vinnik for his role in the violations. A civil case seeking civil monetary penalties, amounting to $88,596,314 for BTC-e and $12 million for Vinnik, is pending in the Northern District of California.

The indictment charges BTC-e and Vinnik with one count of operating an unlicensed money services business and one count of conspiracy to launder money. Additionally, the indictment charges Vinnik with 17 counts of money laundering and two counts of participating in illegal monetary transactions.

The FBI, IRS Criminal Investigation (Oakland Field Office and Cyber ​​Crime Unit, Washington, DC), Homeland Security Investigations, and US Secret Service Criminal Investigative Division are investigating the case.

Attorney General C. Alden Pelker of the Department of Justice’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Claudia Quiroz of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California are suing the ‘affair.

The Justice Department’s National Cryptocurrency Enforcement Team provided substantial assistance. The extradition request was processed by the Office of International Affairs of the Ministry of Justice.

The Ministry of Justice thanks the Greek Ministry of Justice for its cooperation in obtaining the transfer of the accused to the United States.

An indictment is only an allegation. All defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in court.

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