PARIS, August 3. /TASS/. France’s examining judge has ruled to refer the court case of Russian national Alexander Vinnik, accused of stealing private data and extortion in France, to a tribunal correctionnel, first-instance criminal court, Vinnik’s French defense attorney Frederic Belo told TASS Monday, confirming the news reported by Agence France-Presse earlier.
"The examining judge assigned to Vinnik’s case on July 21 made the decision to refer the case of Alexander Vinnik to the tribunal correctionnel. As far as I know, the prosecution has already demanded that the date for the first hearing be set. It seems like it will be scheduled for September 14, but we are awaiting confirmation," he said, adding that it should be clarified what kind of hearing it will be, a procedural one or a hearing on the case’s merits.
"As far as we know, this first part of the hearing will last a couple of days," he added. "Alexander Vinnik is facing charges on 14 counts," Belo said, highlighting that they are extortion as part of criminal gang, attempted extortion, money laundering as part of criminal group and other counts relating to data processing, including personal data.
The defendant underlined that Vinnik "believes himself to be a victim, as he was a simple operator in these actions."
Alexander Vinnik, a Russian IT specialist, was detained while vacationing in Greece on July 25, 2017 at the United States’ request, where he is accused of laundering four to nine billion US dollars through a no longer existent Internet exchange of cryptocurrencies BTC-e. On January 23, 2020 he was extradited to France. The final decision was made by Greece’s State Council, or the Supreme Court of Greece. Vinnik’s extradition was also sought by Russia and the United States. The Russian dismissed all the charges brought against him and expressed the readiness to return home.
On January 28, a Paris court ruled to keep Vinnik under arrest. The five-hour court session was held behind closed doors and, according to the defense attorneys, with numerous violations of law. Neither the defense team nor Vinnik himself were allowed to speak during these hearings.
On February 17, having considered the defense’s appeal, the Paris court again ruled for Vinnik’s remand in custody. The next day, his mother, Vera Vinnik, filed a request to French President Emmanuel Macron pleading for her son’s right to an impartial investigation. She handed her appeal to Russia’s embassy in Paris. On May 12, the Paris court rejected his attorneys’ request to release Vinnik for medical considerations. The defense team asked the court to release the Russian man under judicial control in France or to release him under house arrest, referring to coronavirus fears and unsafe conditions in the jail.