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Lawyer of alleged crypto launderer urges Russia to discuss prisoner swap – letter

Alexander Vinnik, a Russian man aged 38, is being escorted by officers to Athens, Greece, 13 December, 2017.

A Russian lawyer accused of laundering over $4 billion using the digital currency bitcoin urged Moscow to start negotiations with the United States on Monday  (5 September) to include his client in a possible prisoner swap.

 US Secretary Of State Antony Blinken said in July that Washington had made Moscow “substantial offers” to release American citizens in Russia. This included Brittney Griner (a former marine) and Paul Whelan (a former marine).

A lawyer for Alexander Vinnik, a Russian extradited to the United States last month on money laundering charges, wrote asking Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov for swap negotiations with Washington.


Frederic Belot wrote that Alexander can only be saved if the Russian Federation enters into negotiations with American authorities in the context of the exchange prisoner between the mentioned countries.

Belot stated that he sent the letter via email to the Russian foreign ministry. The ministry did not immediately respond to our request for comment.

Vinnik was detained in Greece in 2017, at the request by the United States. Moscow has repeatedly requested that he be returned home to Russia.


He was extradited from Greece to France, where he was sentenced to five years in prison. After that, he was sent to Greece again and then to the United States.

Vinnik was in France in solitary confinement, according to his lawyer. Due to stress from isolation psychiatrists “have stated that Vinnik has a partial loss in memory,” the letter stated.

Vinnik’s lawyer claims that Vinnik has denied all charges and will continue to deny them.

Vinnik allegedly “operated, owned, and managed BTC-e” a significant cybercrime organization and online money laundering enterprise that allowed its users trade in bitcoin anonymously and built a customer base heavily dependent on criminal activity.

Vinnik faces a maximum sentence of 55 years for violating US laws. This is according to the US Department of Justice website. Vinnik’s lawyer confirmed this figure.

Belot said: “This term for Alexander seems like life.”

Russia repeatedly claimed that it is engaged in “quiet diplomaticy” with the US over a possible prisoner swap.

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