Tatyana Moskalkova, the Commissioner for Human Rights in Russia, has written a letter to Michalis Kalogirou, the Justice Minister of Greece, asking for the co-operation of the Greek government in Russia’s efforts to extradite Alexander Vinnik, a Russian international fugitive and former businessman.
According to a post published on local news outlet TASS on February 25, Commissioner Moskalkova asked the Greek Minister to assist the Russian government’s efforts to seek extradition of Vinnik to Russia, on account of both the criminal proceedings against him and his deteriorating health.
Moskalkova’s letter reads:
I appeal to you, Mr. Minister, to extradite Alexander Vinnik, a citizen of the Russian Federation — against whom criminal proceedings have been instituted in the Russian Federation, and who is currently in a difficult family situation and health condition — to the Russian Federation for further investigation of his case.
The post highlighted Vinnik’s health, which had taken a turn for the worse, since he instituted his hunger strike. He had lost about 30 percent of his weight and is reportedly “on the verge of death.” Vinnik had gone on the hunger strike to protest the removal of his “right for defense in France and, consequently, in Greece.”
Moskalkova has also reportedly sent separate letters to Andreas Xanthos, the Greek Minister for Health, Peter Maurer, the President of the Internal Red Cross Committee, and Andreas Pottakis, the Greek Ombudsman, all of whom the Russian Commissioner is hoping to provide medical assistance to Vinnik following his hunger strike.
Vinnik’s Extensive Criminal Record
Widely known as “Mr. Bitcoin,” Vinnik founded and ran the now-defunct cryptocurrency exchange platform BTC-e. He was arrested by local police while on vacation in Greece back in July 2017 after an order was given for his arrest by the United States Department of Justice.
Amongst the accusations leveled against him by the authorities were charges of fraud and laundering up to $4 billion in Bitcoin (BTC) while he worked with the exchange.
In addition to these charges, Vinnik was also reported to have been directly involved in the Mt.Gox hack in 2014. Not only was Vinnik’s BTC-e the funnel through which the stolen tokens were laundered, but they were deposited right into his crypto wallet.
Vinnik, Escorted by Greek Officers after his arrest. Image from Reuters.
Vinnik ended his hunger strike earlier this week, after Moskalkova visited him. The meeting reportedly took place on February 21 at an undisclosed hospital in Greece.
Speaking with Russian media after the visit, Moskalkova said Vinnik looked utterly exhausted, and was in desperate need for professional medical care.
In July 2018, a Greek court ruled to have Vinnik extradited to France, where he was charged for defrauding more than 100 French citizens in six cities over the course of two years.
The Russian vehemently challenged the ruling of the Greek court on his extradition, while also denying the allegations of the French authorities. Last November, he decided to go on a hunger strike in a bid to protest his prison conditions, “violations of his human rights,” as well as to receive a fair trial.
Could Russia be a New Crypto Hub?
Russia might be struggling to get Vinnik into its shores but this hasn’t slowed down the pace of development. It has seen a lot of cryptocurrency-related developments happening as of late. Earlier this month, a post on local financial outlet Rambler reported that the Russian State Duma (the lower house of the Russian Federal Assembly) was reviewing and implementing a new set of cryptocurrency regulations in March.
Rambler also reported that Igor Yusufov, former Russian Minister for Energy and head of the Energia Investment Corporation, had proposed an oil-backed digital asset that will help improve the method of making settlements in the energy industry.
According to Yusufov, the introduction of a new industry-backed settlement system will help stakeholders avoid the costs associated with making fiat payments, while also eliminating the complexities involved in dealing with varying exchange rates.