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Greece's Supreme Court has ruled in favor of extraditing a Russian cybercrime suspect to the United States to stand trial for allegedly laundering billions of dollars using the virtual currency bitcoin.

Alexander Vinnik made his final appearance at an Athens court Wednesday amid an ongoing legal battle between the U.S. and Russia, who are both seeking his extradition.

Greece's justice minister will ultimately decide on whether Vinnik will be sent to Russia or the U.S.

The case was heard amid growing global interest in virtual currencies and their underlying blockchain technology, fuelled by the ongoing boom in the price of bitcoin.

The 38-year-old former bitcoin platform operator denies any wrongdoing but is not contesting the Russian request on less serious charges.

U.S. authorities accuse Vinnik of laundering $4 billion worth of bitcoins through BTC-e, one of the world's largest digital currency exchanges, which he allegedly operated.

Garrick Hileman, a research fellow at the University of Cambridge, said bitcoin's growing acceptance by mainstream markets makes criminal cases surrounding the currency more significant.

"For bitcoin to continue to attract regulated and institutional investors it will need to operate within the law," he told the AP.

"The United States, with the support of evidence from various cyber sleuths, is arguing that Vinnik and BTC-e were two of the biggest bad actors in the crypto-currency industry. Bringing bad actors to justice will help bitcoin move beyond its tainted history."

Vinnik was arrested at a northern Greek holiday resort in July and a lower court has already approved his extradition to the U.S.

Ilias Spyrliadis, a lawyer for Vinnik's defense, said they would formally respond after Wednesday's decision is published, in about one week.


Thirteen judges on the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will be asked to decide if the ban violates the constitution by discriminating against Muslims, as opponents say, or is necessary to protect national security, as the Trump administration says.

The hearing scheduled Friday comes four days after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Trump administration can fully enforce the ban even as the separate challenges continue before the Richmond, Virginia-based 4th Circuit and the San Francisco-based 9th Circuit appeals courts.

The 4th Circuit is being asked to reverse the decision of a Maryland judge whose injunction in October barred the administration from enforcing the ban against travelers from Chad, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen who have bona fide relationships with people or organizations in the U.S. The ban also applies to travelers from North Korea and to some Venezuelan government officials and their families, but the lawsuits didn't challenge those restrictions.

Trump announced his initial travel ban on citizens of certain Muslim-majority nations in late January, bringing havoc and protests to airports around the country. A federal judge in Seattle soon blocked it, and courts since then have wrestled with the restrictions as the administration has rewritten them. The latest version blocks travelers from the listed countries to varying degrees, allowing for students from some of the countries while blocking other business travelers and tourists, and allowing for admissions on a case-by-case basis.

Opponents say the latest version of the ban is another attempt by Trump to fulfill his campaign pledge to keep Muslims out of the U.S. The administration, however, says the ban is based on legitimate national security concerns.

The 4th Circuit rejected an earlier version in May, finding that it "drips with religious intolerance, animus and discrimination" toward Muslims. The judges cited Trump's campaign pledge on Muslim travelers, as well as tweets and remarks he has made since taking office.


A federal appeals court is being asked to decide if Baltimore's prosecutor is immune from a lawsuit by five officers who claim she maliciously prosecuted them in the death of a black man fatally injured in police custody.

Freddie Gray's death from a spinal injury in 2015 prompted days of protests and rioting in Baltimore. State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby charged six officers in Gray's arrest and death. Three were acquitted and Mosby dropped the remaining cases.

Five of the six officers sued Mosby. They contend she acted as an investigator, instead of a prosecutor, and isn't immune from being sued.
The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will hear arguments Wednesday in Mosby's bid to overturn a decision from a judge, who ruled parts of the lawsuit could continue.



A Moscow court on Monday ruled that a prominent theater and film director who is being investigated for fraud must remain under house arrest.

Kirill Serebrennikov, arguably Russia's best known director, was detained and put under house arrest in August in a criminal case that raised fears of a return to Soviet-style censorship.

Serebrennikov's plays have often been targeted by conservative circles, which dismiss his work as decadent and unpatriotic.

The court ruled Monday Serebrennikov should stay under house arrest at least until late January, rejecting a plea for bail.

Investigators have accused him of scheming to embezzle about $1.1 million in government funds allocated for one of his productions and the projects he directed between 2011 and 2014.

Serebrennikov has dismissed the accusations as absurd.

Serebrennikov's lawyer, Dmitry Kharitonov, told Russian news agencies on Monday that his client had petitioned the investigators to allow him to attend the premiere of the ballet "Nureyev" at the Bolshoi that he had directed. But the chances that Serebrennikov will be allowed to go to the Bolshoi are "negligible," Kharitonov said.

Tickets for "Nureyev," which premiers later this month, went on sale last month and were sold out in a matter of hours.

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