Police arrest Russian wanted by U.S. in $4B bitcoin scheme

By Allen Cone  |  July 26, 2017 at 1:55 PM
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July 26 (UPI) -- Greek police arrested a Russian man wanted in the United States related to an alleged $4 billion bitcoin money-laundering gang, authorities said Wednesday.

Alexander Vinnik, 38, was detained Tuesday on a U.S. warrant in Chalkidiki, northern Greece, and the FBI has requested his extradition, police said.

Authorities found laptops, mobile phones, credit cards and tapes in his hotel room in the nearby tourist resort of Halkidiki, where he was staying with his wife and children.

The man was "in charge of a criminal organization, which legitimized earnings from illegal activities," according to Greek police. Officials described him as the "brain" behind the bitcoin operations.

Vinnik was suspected of being involved since 2011, police said.

Bitcoin is a digital currency used online with no central bank and is not backed by any government.

The Russian embassy in Greece confirmed to state-run Sputnik Vinnik was arrested.

"We, of course, are in contact with both the Greek authorities and the Russian citizen to ensure his legitimate rights and interests," the embassy said.

In February, the Russian Foreign Ministry said that the United States has continued its "unacceptable" practice of "hunting" Russians globally despite efforts to establish cooperation in extraditions.

"We strongly recommend Russian citizens, when planning trips abroad, to carefully weigh all the risks, especially if there are grounds to assume that U.S. law enforcement agencies have possible issues with them," the Russian ministry said. "This primarily relates to travel to countries having agreements on extradition with the U.S."

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