Lawyer for Russian accused of money laundering asks for client to be included in US-Russia prisoner swap negotiations
The “only thing that can save” Alexander Vinnik, who US authorities allege ran a $4 billion cryptocurrency exchange that did business with ransomware gangs, is if the Russian government negotiates a prisoner swap with the US, Frédéric Bélot, Vinnik’s lawyer in France, said in a letter to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov obtained by CNN.
CNN has requested comment on the letter to Lavrov from the Russian foreign ministry and the US State Department.
US prosecutors had for years been in an extradition fight with Russian authorities over Vinnik, who was arrested in Greece and subsequently extradited to France, where he was sentenced to five years in prison in 2020 for money laundering. The Justice Department ultimately won its appeal to apprehend Vinnik, who made his initial court appearance in the Northern District of California on August 5.
Vinnik is accused of operating a cryptocurrency exchange known as BTC-e that allegedly did business with drug dealers and various cybercriminals such as identity thieves.
Vinnik maintains his innocence, according to Bélot, who represents the 42-year-old Russian man in France. CNN has requested comment from David Rizk, a public defender whom court records list as Vinnik’s attorney in the Northern District of California.
The Russian government, through its embassies and consulates in the US, often pays close attention to the trials of accused Russian cybercriminals. And Vinnik is far from the first Russian whom the Kremlin has asked another government to extradite after US prosecutors filed their own extradition request.