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Lawyer For Alleged Russian Hacker Arrested In Prague Says Client Innocent

  • RFE/RL

Yevgeny Nikulin was arrested in Prague's Old Town while at a restaurant with a female companion.

Yevgeny Nikulin was arrested in Prague's Old Town while at a restaurant with a female companion.

The Czech lawyer for Yevgeny Nikulin, the 29-year-old Russian citizen arrested in Prague two months ago on U.S. charges of hacking and data theft, claims his client is innocent.

Attorney Adam Kopecky told Current Time TV this week that Nikulin had no idea that he was the subject of an Interpol arrest warrant when he was apprehended by Czech police on October 5.

Nikulin is wanted in the United States for allegedly hacking into the servers of LinkedIn, Dropbox, and Formspring.

His case comes against the backdrop of accusations by U.S. officials and cybersecurity professionals that Russian hackers are behind a number of high-profile breaches, including alleged efforts to disrupt the U.S. elections in early November, a charge that Moscow has denied.

"Most likely, Nikulin did not even know that an arrest order had been issued," Kopecky said. "At the time of his arrest, he was very surprised."

Kopecky's statement contradicts information from an acquaintance of Nikulin's who told Current Time on October 20 that Nikulin "knew about Interpol" and was "an idiot" for traveling abroad at the time.

Nikulin was arrested in Prague's Old Town while at a restaurant with a female companion.

He had posted photos of his trip from Moscow to Prague on his Instagram account i.tak.soidet, including one apparently showing his Mercedes in Poland, with a comment from a user asking "What about Interpol?"

Kopecky told Current Time, which is run jointly by RFE/RL and VOA, that Nikulin had traveled to countries in the European Union's Schengen area on several previous occasions since 2014, but did not provide further details.

The source of Nikulin's wealth is not clear.

The source of Nikulin's wealth is not clear.

The lawyer said that no trial date had been set and that his client was being held in Prague's Pankrac prison.

"As far as I know, he is alone in a cell and is restricted to being alone when he walks for exercise within the prison," Kopecky said.

A federal grand jury in Oakland, California, indicted Nikulin on October 21 for purportedly hacking in 2012 into LinkedIn, Dropbox, and Formspring. Each of the companies is headquartered in the San Francisco Bay area.

The indictment says he is charged with "three counts of computer intrusion; two counts of intentional transmission of information, code, or command causing damage to a protected computer; two counts of aggravated identity theft; one count of trafficking in unauthorized access devices; and one count of conspiracy."

Under U.S. law, an indictment alleges that crimes have been committed but defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

Following Nikulin's arrest, Moscow said it would try to prevent his extradition to the United States.

The Czech Justice Ministry said on November 23 that it had received, in addition to the U.S. extradition request, a request from Moscow to extradite Nikulin to Russia.

An arrest warrant was issued for Nikulin on November 10 by one of the district courts of Moscow.

The Czech Foreign Ministry has said Russia's interest in Nikulin is related to crimes he is alleged to have committed in April 2009 in Moscow, in particular the reported theft $3,450 from the electronic payment system Webmoney.

Nikulin is well-known on Russian social media for a flamboyant lifestyle that he chronicled on his Instagram site.

Posts have shown him posing with a Lamborghini valued at around $240,000 and other luxury automobiles, and wearing $900 shoes and an expensive watch.

The source of Nikulin's wealth is not clear.

In a 2015 interview with the Russian car website AvtoRambler, Nikulin is simply described as "a very busy young man."

"Yevgeny is already a successful entrepreneur whose business interests include a construction firm, an automobile service garage, and a company that sells luxury watches.

"As you can see from our interview," the article states, "the Huracan is not his first Lamborghini."

Also unclear is what Nikulin was doing in Prague when he was arrested.

"As far as I know, he was selling cars and his business is quite successful," Kopecky told Current Time on November 30.

Under Czech law, extradition requires a two-step process.

A court must first decide in a trial whether he can be extradited, but the final decision on whether he is extradited is made by the Justice Ministry.

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