Founder of crypto exchange BTC-e eyes prisoner swap with WSJ journalist
Alexander Vinnik, the co-founder of defunct Russian crypto exchange BTC-e, is facing money laundering charges in the US. But according to a report from the Wall Street Journal (WSJ), he is optimistic about being included in a prisoner swap for captured journalist Evan Gershkovich.
Filings by Vinnik’s lawyer discuss how “he has been the subject of political negotiations over a prisoner swap with Russia at the highest levels of the government.” The filing also emphasizes how “public perception impacts those high-level, political negotiations.”
This filing specifically relates to a request to allow Vinnik to discuss materials from discovery more broadly.
The allegations against Vinnik are that he operated BTC-e and in the process stole identities and facilitated money laundering, including funds from the Mt. Gox hacker. BTC-e allegedly lacked any type of Know-Your-Customer (KYC) or Anti-Money-Laundering (AML) procedures, allowing criminals to use the exchange free of restriction.
The prosecutors specifically allege that funds connected to administrative accounts for BTC-e were transferred directly to bank accounts controlled by Vinnik and that Vinnik was the beneficial owner of at least one of the corporations involved in the operations of BTC-e.
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Cryptocurrency analytics expert Elliptic has previously suggested that BTC-e handled some of the bitcoin traced to Fancy Bear, a Russian state hacking apparatus that it’s been suggested was the entity behind the 2016 hack of the Democratic National Convention.
The BBC has also reported that assets belonging to Wex, the successor to BTC-e, were eventually given to the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB).
Vinnik has so far pleaded not guilty to the 21 charges levied against him in the US and has suggested he didn’t have decision-making authority over the platform.