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The year-old Russian is inside a jail cell in France, where prosecutors argue he is responsible for a vast criminal enterprise. Mr Vinnik allegedly operated one of the world's most popular digital currency exchange sites. And it offered members — who traded under pseudonyms like CocaineCowboys, ISIS and hacker4hire — near-total anonymity.
The company behind the website was registered in Seychelles — a known money-laundering haven — where people set up shell companies, and hide behind them to protect their identities. American prosecutors argue BTC-e was a breeding ground for hackers, fraudsters, identity-theft scams, public corruption and drug trafficking.
Remember how the Mueller investigation found Russian operatives were responsible for hacking the Democratic National Committee, which led to internal Clinton campaign emails getting leaked two days before the election?
Later analysis showed those Russian hackers paid for their operations using BTC-e, the service American prosecutors claim Mr Vinnik controlled. About a month after Donald Trump was elected president, an analyst for the British bank Barclays began looking at the transactions coming in and out of BTC-e. The analyst was so concerned by what they'd found, the bank sent a Suspicious Activity Report to the US Treasury's intelligence division.
Meanwhile, an FBI investigation into the Bitcoin exchange was gathering pace. On the morning of July 25, , BTC-e users woke up, turned on their computers, and were met with a stark message. Prosecutors in France, the United States and Russia filed extradition requests, with each jurisdiction pursuing Mr Vinnik for separate charges. Where even the reported personal intervention of Russian President Vladimir Putin has not helped him. He has withered away on a hunger strike, and according to Russian media, he's even been the subject of assassination attempts.
Inside jail, Mr Vinnik has maintained his innocence, telling reporters he only "worked for the company and carried out my duties". Meanwhile, some of the BTC-e users who had lost access to their money turned on the middleman — a Russian entrepreneur named Sergey Mayzus. Mr Mayzus owned an electronic payment provider called MoneyPolo that members had used to transfer money in and out of BTC-e.
Mr Mayzus is a controversial figure himself. His company has been flagged by Australian authorities for facilitating payments to an internet scam website. Banks have also flagged his company for potentially allowing dirty money through his business. Mr Mayzus said that scam website account was shut down when the issue was discovered, and that the company has always acted in accordance with anti-money laundering laws.
No sanctions from the regulator have been taken against the company. Mr Mayzus said after BTC-e was shut down, the criminals who had been using the services demanded their money back from him. Suspicious Activity Reports from other banks were also in the leak, each with their own concerns about Mr Vinnik's companies.
FX Open is an online foreign exchange broker, meaning its users bet on movements in currency exchange rates. The company's headquarters are in Perth, but it is ultimately owned by a company in the Marshall Islands. Its Australian director, Jafar Calley, confirmed that Mr Vinnik had been a client, but said the accounts involved were frozen. Former Australian Federal Police agent John Chevis said Mr Vinnik's transactions should have aroused suspicion at CBA, and that the bank should have asked more questions about the source of funds.
Despite being registered in Seychelles, Mr Vinnik's company had a Russian phone number. Mr Chevis said if the Commonwealth Bank believed the company was, in fact, a shell company, it should have acted. If no additional information is forthcoming, or if no legitimate source can be established, the transaction should be rejected," he told the ABC.