Security Experts:

French Trial Sought for Alleged Russian Bitcoin Criminal

Paris prosecutors asked investigating judges on Wednesday to order a criminal trial for Alexander Vinnik, a Russian suspected of money laundering on the bitcoin exchange BTC-e, and who is also wanted by Washington and Moscow.

They have also sought an order for Vinnik's continued detention since his extradition in January from Greece, where he was arrested on an American warrant in 2017, the prosecutor's office told AFP.

Vinnik, 40, operated the BTC-e exchange until his arrest at the northern Greek tourist resort of Halkidiki, which set off a three-way extradition tussle between the United States, France and Russia.

A US indictment accused him of 21 charges ranging from identity theft and facilitating drug trafficking to money laundering.

French authorities, meanwhile, accuse him of defrauding more than 100 people in six cities between 2016 and 2018.

Vinnik has denied the charges and has sought an extradition to Russia, where he is wanted on lesser fraud charges involving just 9,500 euros ($11,000).

BTC-e, founded in 2011, became one of the world's largest and most widely used digital currency exchanges.

But according to the US indictment, BTC-e is also suspected of playing a major role in online extortion and other cyber-crimes.

French prosecutors are seeking a trial for Vinnik on charges of extortion, money laundering and criminal conspiracy.

They are also seeking to try him on charges of fraudulent access and retention of data in automated processing systems -- some of them put in place by the state -- and the false modification of such data.

The victims, according to prosecutors, are individuals, local authorities and companies.

France opened a probe in 2016 after victims of the ransomware Locky filed a complaint.

Investigators said they found evidence to link the software, which blocks and encrypts data and releases it only on payment of a ransom, to Vinnik.

Some 135 million euros are believed to be involved in France.

The US Treasury Department has already fined BTC-e $110 million for "wilfully violating" anti-money laundering laws.

Vinnik himself has been ordered to pay $12 million.

Related: N.Zealand Freezes Assets of Alleged Russian Cyber Criminal

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