France Sentences BTC-e Crypto Exchange’s Operator to 5 Years in Prison for Money Laundering

France Sentences Russian Crypto Exchange Operator to 5 Years in Prison for Money Laundering

Russian crypto exchange BTC-e’s operator Alexander Vinnik has now been sentenced to five years in prison by a French court and fined 100,000 euros. He was arrested over three years ago in Greece, extradited to France, and is wanted in the U.S. and Russia.

Vinnik Sentenced After 3+ Years

Alexander Vinnik, the operator of the now-defunct Russian cryptocurrency exchange BTC-e, was sentenced on Monday to five years in prison by a French court for money laundering. The 41-year-old is also ordered to pay fines of 100,000 euros ($121,270).

While convicted of money laundering, Vinnik was acquitted of extortion, association with a criminal enterprise, and cyberattacks linked to the Locky ransomware since the court did not find enough evidence to convict him. The prosecutors alleged that he created the ransomware that about 200 companies and individuals in France fell victim to from 2016 to 2018 with an estimated total damage of 135 million euros.

His lawyers are discussing whether to appeal. Ariane Zimra, one of his French lawyers, argued that since cryptocurrency is not legally recognized as “money,” her client’s conviction for money laundering “doesn’t make sense,” the Associated Press quoted her as saying.

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Arrested in July 2017 while on vacation in Greece, Vinnik was taken into custody by Greek police under an international warrant issued by the U.S. He was extradited to France in January this year. While some believe that he was the mastermind behind the BTC-e crypto exchange, Vinnik argued that he was only a technical operator who carried out instructions given to him by BTC-e’s directors.

Vinnik is also wanted in the U.S. and Russia. While Russian authorities are investigating his involvement in an $11,000 fraud case, U.S. authorities allege that his BTC-e crypto exchange helped criminals launder more than $4 billion.

What do you think about Vinnik’s five-year prison sentence? Let us know in the comments section below.

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