Russia Clash with the U.S over Extradition of Cybercriminal from Greece
Reports from a Greek judicial official reveals that Russia and the United States have once locked horns again after Russia sought an extradition of a Russian national believed to be a cybercriminal who was arrested in Greece at the request of the United States.
Aleksandr Vinnik was the mastermind of the crime organization accused of laundering over $4 billion in bitcoin. This included funds from Mt Gox, the failed bitcoin exchange which was hacked.
Xanthippe Moyssidou, Vinnik’s lawyer told the AP that, the Russian was also wanted in Russia on another set of fraud charges and that Russia has requested an extradition. Moyssidou also stated that his client made it clear to Greek Authorities on Tuesday that, he wasn’t going to challenge the Russian extradition request.
A judicial source who only spoke on the condition of anonymity told AFP Tuesday that Vinnik is wanted for fraud charges totaling around $11,000 in Russia.
On the 26th of July, at the request of U.S law officials, Vinnik was arrested in a small beachside village in northern Greece. This came after an investigation was conducted led by the US Department of Justice in collaboration with several other task forces and federal agencies.
He was then accused of operating a $4 billion money-laundering operation involving bitcoin, an online trading cryptocurrency.
According to the U.S. indictment, Vinnik was the owner and operator of several accounts with BTC-e, a popular bitcoin exchange.
The indictment also stated that Vinnik who is also known by the alias Sasha Vemye, together with other people developed a customer base for BTC-e that was relied heavily on criminals. The exchange was used to facilitate numerous crimes ranging from computer hacking to identity fraud to drug-trafficking all over the world.
According to U.S authorities, the BTC-e also had a hand in numerous ransomware and other cybercriminal activity.
He was also linked to the failure of Mt Gox, the Japan-based bitcoin exchange which collapsed in 2014 following its hack, which saw them lose bitcoins worth over $450 million at the time.
Vinnik was also alleged to have obtained funds through hacking and later laundered them through BTC-e and Tradehill, a San Francisco-based exchange he owned, the indictment stated.
“Just as new computer technologies continue to change the way we engage each other and experience the world, so too will criminals subvert these new technologies to serve their own nefarious purposes,” stated the US attorney for the Northern District of California, Brian Stretch.
BTC-e has however been fined $110 million by the Treasury Department for “willfully violating U.S. anti money-laundering laws with Vinnik also receiving a fine of $12 million.
Vinnik’s wife on the other hand stated after her husband’s arrest that, she did not believe the allegations labeled against him and that the U.S. wanted him for his intellect.
Vinnik’s arrest added up to the series of US operations against Russian cybercriminals in Europe, including the taking down of two of the biggest dark web marketplaces noted for the sales of drugs, guns and other illegal items. He is, however, the latest Russian citizen, the U.S. has accused of cyber-related crimes, arrested in a third country other than those two, and then subjected to extradition proceedings.
Just a few months ago, Pyotr Levashov, a Russian national and a resident of St. Petersburg, alleged to be one of the world’s prolific spammers, was arrested in Spain while on Vacation with his family at the request of U.S. authorities.
What followed was an indictment by the U.S. Justice Department. He was alleged to be behind the operation of Kelihos botnet, a dreadful network of infected computers that cybercriminals used in distributing bulk spam emails and also to install ransomware this year.
Reports show a total of seven Russian citizens arrested or indicted on U.S. cybercrime charges as of August 2017. This figure shows a massive increase than those of previous years.
Over the past few months, Russia has complained and showed great displeasure as to how U.S. officials were treating Russian citizens abroad, labeling the act as “kidnapping”.
In July, following the arrest and extradition of Yury Martyshev, a Latvia-based Russian, the Russian Embassy to the U.S. gave a comment stating that the arrest violated a bilateral agreement and demanded that the rights and interests of the Russian citizen were placed under unconditional observance.