A photograph of the Russian cybercrime suspect Russian man Alexander Vinnik is on display on a screen during a press conference by his lawyers in Athens, Thursday, Feb. 28, 2019. Zoe Konstantopoulou, the lawyer for Vinnik, suspected of bitcoin fraud and wanted by three countries says his health is deteriorating due to a hunger strike and criticized the Greek courts for holding him in custody for more than the maximum 18 months allowed. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

Lawyer: Russian cybercrime suspect on hunger strike

February 28, 2019 - 9:55 am

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — The lawyers for a Russian suspected of bitcoin fraud and wanted by three countries said Thursday that the man's health is deteriorating due to a hunger strike, and criticized the Greek courts for detaining him for more than the maximum 18 months allowed.

Lawyer Zoe Konstantopoulou said Alexander Vinnik, 39, has been on a hunger strike for three months, during which time he has lost about 30 percent of his body weight. She aired a video of a gaunt-looking Vinnik she said was shot last week.

She noted he has been in custody for 19 months despite not being charged with any crimes in Greece.

"This person is a detainee without charges, without a sentence and without rights," Konstantopoulou said during a news conference, adding that he was now in an "exceptionally critical state of health."

Vinnik's Russian lawyer, Timofey Musatov, said his client was determined to receive justice. "From the beginning, he said: 'justice or death'," Musatov said through an interpreter.

Vinnik was arrested in northern Greece while on holiday with his wife and two young children in July 2017 on a request from the United States, where he is accused of laundering billions of dollars using bitcoin, the virtual currency. France and Russia later also sought his extradition, and Greek courts approved all three requests.

Due to the competing requests and approvals, the final decision on where he will be sent rests with Greece's justice minister, who has yet to make a ruling.

"Alexander Vinnik has been in this procedure of torturous waiting for the past 19 months ... without the justice minister answering him on whether he will hear him and what his decision will be," Konstantopoulou said.

Vinnik has agreed to be sent to Russia, where he is charged with lesser offences of alleged fraud worth 750 million rubles ($11 million) but is fighting the other two requests. In France, the former bitcoin platform operator is accused of laundering millions of euros raised by cyber-criminals using the virtual currency. He denies any wrongdoing.

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