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Data from Vinnik’s phone, notebook may have been tampered with, says lawyer

Russian Alexander Vinnik was detained in Greece on July 25, 2017, at America’s request, where he is accused of laundering $4-9 bln through the now non-existent BTC-e cryptocurrency trading platform

ATHENS, February 4. /TASS/. Data from the mobile phone and the laptop seized from Russian bitcoin suspect Alexander Vinnik jailed in Athens cannot be used as evidence in the case, as it earlier was sent to the US where it could have been tampered with, the head of Vinnik’s team of lawyers, Timofei Musatov, told TASS over the phone on Monday.

According to the lawyer, data from his devices had been copied in the US and then unlawfully passed to France, which in June 2018 issued a European arrest warrant. The defense has some documents to confirm this.

"We have facts confirming that the mobile phone and laptop seized from Alexander, as well as their data were illegally passed over to the US. We know that this information was for sure copied by Americans, and most likely changed, as they had such a possibility. These devices were returned to Greece and are now in the hands of a special financial affairs attorney of Athens," Musataov explained.

The phone and the laptop "have been in the hands of America. Data copied from these devices was passed over to Frenchmen, which is also contrary to laws," Musatov said.

"The defense initially supposed that the French and European requests had been made at the request and in the interests of the US," he went on to say. "This was an assumption, not documented. The issued document confirms estimates of the defense as to the nature of Vinnik’s criminal prosecution. The document directly links the Greek law enforcement agencies to the FBI, to Americans, as Greeks are consulting the American side as to their position on France".

According to the lawyer, Americans want to get evidence from Vinnik to prove Russia’s alleged interference in financing the election campaign of President Donald Trump. "There were a lot of stories in US media with such allegations," he went on to say. Musatov said the Democrats, who were trying to remove Trump, needed it, and they want to find evidence of an alleged involvement of the BTC-e cryptocurrency trading platform that had served a lot of Russian clients in financing Trump’s presidential campaign. "They are trying to find a Russian trace with the help of this trading platform," the lawyer said.

Extradition requests from the US, Russia and France

Vinnik was detained in Greece on July 25, 2017, at America’s request, where he is accused of laundering $4-9 bln through the now non-existent BTC-e cryptocurrency trading platform. Russia has sought the individual’s extradition, while France sent a similar request in June. Furthermore, Greece is pressing criminal charges against the Russian citizen.

He has been in a Greek prison since then. Greece's Supreme Court ruled in 2017 to extradite Vinnik to the United States but later on revised its decision and first ruled to extradite him to Russia at the request of the Russian prosecutor’s office and then to France on a European arrest warrant issued by Paris.

Since November 26, 2018, Vinnik has been on a hunger strike protesting against "judicial outrage," calling himself a political inmate and demanding that the Greek authorities give him a possibility to get back to his homeland. His health condition is close to critical at the moment.

The defense has demanded from the Greek authorities to release Vinnik from custody, as 18 months during which he could be kept in custody without charges brought against him expired on January 26, 2019.

Moscow expects Athens to extradite Russian national Alexander Vinnik who has been in a Greek prison since July 2017 to his country, Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told reporters at a press briefing on January 31.

"We keep a close eye on the situation involving Russian citizen Vinnik," she said, recalling that Vinnik had been apprehended on a warrant issued by the US Department of Justice.

"He has been on a hunger strike since late November 2018, which is, naturally, a cause for profound concern. Russian diplomatic representatives in Greece insist on ensuring the personal safety of the detained Russian citizen and respecting his legitimate rights. During our contacts with the Greek side at all levels we stress that we expect the Greek authorities to extradite the Russian national to his country of origin, that is, Russia," she stressed.