Vinnik Seeks Prisoner Swap for Release

Alexander Vinnik was arrested in Greece on money laundering charges under a US arrest warrant and was subsequently extradited to France.

Vinnik Seeks Prisoner Swap for Release
Vinnik Seeks Prisoner Swap for Release

Alexander Vinnik, the Russian co-founder of the allegedly illegal cryptocurrency exchange BTC-e, is attempting to secure his release through a “prisoner swap.”

The Wall Street Journal reported on May 24 that Vinnik’s attorney is attempting to modify Vinnik’s protective order so that he can be considered as part of a prisoner trade deal between Russia and the United States.

Consequently, he could be “swapped” for the detained WSJ reporter Evan Gershkovich.

Assistant federal defender for the Northern District of California David Rizk wrote, “Mr. Vinnik should be permitted to respond to the allegations against him and advocate publicly for his inclusion in a prisoner swap.”

Rizk explained, citing sources familiar with the prisoner-swap procedure, that such negotiations necessitate a robust public campaign to “maximize the chances of such an exchange.”

The renewed efforts for Vinnik’s potential trade deal coincide with U.S. government demands for the immediate release of Gershkovich, whose detention period was recently extended until August 30.

In March, Russian authorities arrested Gershkovich on suspicion of espionage, marking the first time since the end of the Cold War that an American journalist has been detained on espionage charges.

In September of last year, Vinnik’s legal team urged officials to consider exchanging him for one of the numerous U.S. citizens detained in Russia.

This was the beginning of Vinnik’s campaign for a prisoner swap.

On December 9, 2022, the United States agreed to release Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, dubbed the “merchant of death,” in exchange for WNBA star Brittney Griner, who was sentenced to more than nine years in a Russian prison for attempting to smuggle cannabis oil into the country.

Vinnik was arrested in Greece in 2017 on money laundering charges under a U.S. arrest warrant. He was subsequently extradited to France in 2020.

In France, Vinnik was cleared of ransomware allegations but convicted and sentenced to five years for money laundering.

On August 5, 2022, after serving two years in a French prison, he was extradited to the United States.

BTC-e was founded in 2011 and seized by U.S. authorities in July 2017 for allegedly assisting Russian criminals in ransomware attacks, identity theft schemes, and drug trafficking.

Vinnik pleaded not guilty to the 21 charges brought against him, arguing that he lacked decision-making authority over the exchange’s day-to-day operations.