Lawyer For Alleged Russian Crypto Launderer Seeks Prisoner Swap With U.S.

Alexander Vinnik

As the relations between the U.S. and Russia remain stringent due to the latter country’s invasion of Ukraine, a lawyer for a Russian citizen accused of laundering more than USD 4bn worth of crypto has called on the Kremlin to facilitate a prisoner exchange involving his client with Washington.

In a letter obtained by Reuters, a lawyer for Alexander Vinnik, a man extradited last August to the U.S. to face money laundering charges, requested Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to set up a prisoner exchange including his client.

“Now the only thing that can save Alexander is for the Russian Federation to enter into negotiations with the American authorities within the framework of the exchange of prisoners between the countries mentioned,” lawyer Frederic Belot said in the letter.

In a statement, the U.S. Department of Justice says that according “to the indictment, Vinnik and his co-conspirators allegedly owned, operated, and administrated BTC-e, a significant cybercrime and online money laundering entity that allowed its users to trade in bitcoin with high levels of anonymity and developed a customer base heavily reliant on criminal activity.”

“Vinnik was taken into custody in Greece in July 2017 at the request of the United States. He made his initial appearance earlier today in federal court in San Francisco before U.S. Magistrate Judge Sallie Kim,” the department said on August 5, 2022.

The alleged money launderer is facing up to 55 years in prison if convicted.

Moscow and Washington have reportedly been in talks over a potential prisoner swap. Last February, the Russian authorities arrested U.S. basketball star Brittney Griner on drug trafficking charges. The athlete was detained at the Moscow-based Sheremetyevo International Airport after less than a gram of hashish oil was found in her luggage. In 2020, a Russian court sentenced former U.S. Marine Paul Whela to 16-years in prison for alleged spying.