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Cyber criminal receives 5-year sentence for multi-million-euro bitcoin laundering scam

By Dan Byrne for AMLi

A BITCOIN EXPERT and alleged malware creator has been sentenced to five years imprisonment in Paris after being convicted of money laundering.  

Alexander Vinnik (41) – originally from Russia – was accused of orchestrating a large-scale fraud campaign that used ransomware to accrue over €135 million in bitcoin, the AP reports.

His legal representatives have said they are discussing whether to appeal the case, and maintained that his conviction “doesn’t make sense,” due to the fact that cryptocurrency was not legally considered “money.” 

During the trial, prosecutors said Vinnik was one of the architects of a malicious software known as “Locky.” Anyone who downloaded this software would have their data encrypted and be asked to pay a bitcoin ransom to release it.  

The scheme is known to have coerced ransoms from 20 victims in France over a two-year period between 2016 and 2018. The funds were processed through the popular trading platform BTC-e.  

Vinnik himself maintains his innocence and says he was only following instructions of BTC-e directors.  

While the court convicted him of money laundering and handed down a fine of €100,000, it did not have enough evidence to cover the related charge of extortion – which would have meant up to ten years in prison and a maximum fine of €750,000 

Nevertheless, Vinnik is also a wanted man in Russia and the United States for crimes of a similar nature.  

His charges in Russia are much less severe however – being merely for fraud concerning funds worth €9,500. After his arrest in Greece in 2017 and before he was moved to France, Vinnik attempted to have himself extradited directly to Russia to face the charges there.  

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