Earlier this year, 38-year-old Russian national Alexander Vinnik was arrested in Greece for allegedly laundering $4 billion through an “unlicensed monetary service” he operated. The arrest warrant was issued by the U.S. Ministry of Justice and, at the time, he was believed to be the admin of the popular cryptocurrency exchange, BTC-e.
BTC-e’s domain was later seized by law enforcement but the exchange has since stated that Alexander Vinnik never even worked there, moving on with the relaunch and rebrand of BTC-e to WEX. Now, in his first interview since the arrest, Vinnik claims to be innocent and says he doesn’t understand why the U.S. would want him to be extradited. He has also refused to be voluntarily extradited.
In the interview with Russia Today, Vinnik said he merely did his job at BTC-e.
He stated (Translated from Russian):
“I do not consider myself guilty (…) The fact that I worked for BTC-e and performed my duties, and it’s not justifiable to accuse me of it. I found out about the charge about a month after I was taken into custody. This was told to me by my Russian lawyer.”
RT news asked Vinnik if he saw himself as a cryptocurrency baron, to which he responded that those who see him that way must be mistaken, as he doesn’t have any luxury possessions. Further, he clarified that he refused voluntary extradition because, per his own words, he didn’t do anything illegal and because he doesn’t understand “what the U.S. has to do with me and what right they have to judge a Russian citizen.”
“U.S. wanted Vinnik because of intellectual abilities”
His wife, Alexandra Vinnik, described her husband as a “skilled cryptocurrency consultant,” who could possibly be sought by companies and individuals such as bitcoin exchange BTC-e. She denied that her husband owned BTC-e, but added that they never discussed details of his job and that Vinnik was a man of few words.
Notably, Alexandra stated that the U.S. only wanted her husband “because of his knowledge, because of his intellectual abilities above all” given the nature of the charges presented against him. These are based on BTC-e operating without a license and on its administrators facilitating illicit schemes such as money laundering, thus giving criminals a platform.
As a reply, Alexandra stated:
“By this way of thinking you could make the manufacturers of frying pans guilty because wives hit their husbands with them. It’s the same thing”
Alexandra added that she believes her husband should be tried in a Russian court and that it’s weird for a Russian national to be tried in the U.S. since he never ran a business there nor had any of his relatives ever visited the country.