Russia scores temporary win against US on cybercrime suspect

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FILE - In this Wednesday, Oct. 4, 2017 file photo, police officers escort Alexander Vinnik, center, as they leave a courthouse at the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki. Russia has won the latest round in a judicial tug-of-war with the U.S. over who should try a Russian cybercrime suspect arrested during a holiday in Greece. (AP Photo/Giannis Papanikos, File)

THESSALONIKI, Greece (AP) Russia on Wednesday won the latest round in a judicial tug-of-war with the U.S. over who should try a Russian cybercrime suspect arrested during a holiday in Greece.

Last week, a panel of judges in the city of Thessaloniki agreed to send Alexander Vinnik to the U.S. to face charges he laundered $4 billion worth of bitcoins through BTC-e, one of the world's largest digital currency exchanges, which he allegedly operated.

On Wednesday, a different panel of judges accepted a Russian extradition request, which followed the initial U.S. one. In Russia, Vinnik is accused of a 667,000-ruble ($11,500) fraud.

The final decision will rest with Greece's justice minister once Vinnik, 37, has exhausted the process of appealing his extradition to the U.S.

"When both requests from two different countries are accepted (in court), like in this case, it's up to the Justice Minister to decide which request to comply with," said Xanthippe Moissidou, one of Vinnik's lawyers.

Vinnik denies both sets of charges, but said he wants to be tried in Russia. He has appealed his U.S. extradition, and Greece's Supreme Court is expected to rule on that appeal in coming weeks.

"If the Supreme Court rejects the U.S. request, as our client wants, the minister is obliged to follow (its) decision," Moissidou said.

The U.S. Justice Department says that Vinnik has been indicted by a grand jury in the Northern District of California, on charges including money laundering, conspiracy to commit money laundering and engaging in unlawful monetary transactions.

The charges, if proved in court, carry maximum sentences of up to 20 years in prison.

Following a U.S. request, Vinnik was arrested in July while on holiday with his family in the Halkidiki area of northern Greece, which is popular with Russian tourists.

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