PARIS (AP) – French prosecutors on Friday demanded a 10-year prison sentence and a fine of 750,000 euros ($ 888,634) against Alexander Vinnik, accused of being behind a 135 million fraud campaign euros ($ 160 million) using ransomware and the cryptocurrency bitcoin.
The 41-year-old Russian, also wanted in the United States and Russia, faces charges in France on extortion, money laundering and criminal association.
Paris prosecutor Johanna Brousse has requested that Vinnik remain in prison.
A series of attacks on French companies and organizations between 2016 and 2018 resulted in 20 victims paying ransom demands issued in bitcoin, one of the most widely used cryptocurrencies, via BTC-e, one of the world’s largest digital currency exchanges.
French prosecutors claim that Vinnik was one of the creators of the malware called “Locky” which was delivered by email. When downloading, the recipient’s data was encrypted and they were asked to pay a ransom in bitcoin to release it.
During an often tense week of hearings in Paris, Vinnik’s main line of defense was that he was just a technical operator carrying out instructions from BTC-e executives.
An investigator from the international police organization Interpol told the court that with the help of the United States, which provided data from BTC-e, it emerged that most of the ransom payments had been sent to a account linked to Vinnik,
Vinnik’s lawyer, Zoé Konstantopoulou, accused French prosecutors of being “malicious”.
“There was no French investigation. The Americans said: it’s Vinnik … and said, ‘make sure he gets transferred to the United States,’ ”she told the court.
Vinnik, speaking in Russian, said: “I am not guilty, I have no relation with ‘Locky’.”
He said the investigation was “botched” and his rights were not respected. “The Americans handed over questionable documents to France,” he said.
The verdict will come at a later date.
Vinnik was arrested in the summer of 2017 while on a family vacation in northern Greece, at the request of US authorities. France, Russia and the United States had asked Greece earlier this year to extradite him to France, so that he would be within the legal borders of the European Union. He went on a hunger strike for 100 days while detained in Greece.
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