Washington accuses Vinnik of laundering $4 billion with the help of the BTC-e bitcoin trading platform. The Russian denies any wrongdoing. Speaking to RIA Novosti via his lawyer, Vinnik confirmed that there is a threat on his life in Greece where he is currently in jail. The prison, however, beefed up security measures to protect him.
“These special measures have been taken since early February, the head of the prison told me in the presence of the Thessaloniki city prosecutor. He explained that someone wants to poison me, there is a kill order for me. This information was official,” Vinnik said in comments sent to RIA. The Russian stressed that he also received threats via phone.
The entrepreneur says that in order to minimize the poisoning threat, he is forced to drink tap water, despite having an opportunity to buy water in the prison shop. He is escorted by a security guard in prison to exclude any contacts with other prisoners.
Vinnik was arrested in the resort area of Halkidiki, near the city of Thessaloniki in northern Greece in July 2017. It was claimed that he had links to BTC-e digital currency trading and exchange platform, which he allegedly used for money laundering. The US also claims that Vinnik is behind the hack of Tokyo-based bitcoin exchange Mt Gox.
In the meantime, Russian authorities have also requested Vinnik’s extradition, accusing him of stealing 600,000 rubles ($10,500) from an unidentified entity “using… deception and the internet.” Vinnik says that he is ready to be extradited to Russia, confirming that he wrote to the Russian Interior Ministry and General Prosecutor’s office.
In February this year the Russian Foreign Ministry issued a warning to all citizens about the threat of being detained or arrested in foreign countries at the request of US special services. Vinnik’s arrest was one of the examples given by the ministry.
It also warned that after being handed over to the US justice system, Russian citizens often encounter extremely biased attitudes. “Through various means, including direct threats, they attempt to coerce Russians into pleading guilty, despite the fact that the charges of them are far-fetched. Those who refuse get sentenced to long prison terms,” the statement stressed.
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