A Russian national sentenced to nine years in a U.S. prison for cybercrimes in a case that closely attracted Moscow’s attention has reportedly been deported in what experts said is a rare move by the Justice Department.
The Russian news agency RIA cited Russia's Interior Ministry on September 28 as saying that Aleksei Burkov had been returned.
The U.S. Justice Department did not immediately respond to an RFE/RL request for comment.
Burkov, 31, was sentenced in June last year by a U.S. district court in Virginia for stealing more than $20 million from U.S. consumers through a credit card fraud scheme.
He was released from prison on August 25, 2021, days after a federal judge responded to a Department of Justice plea that remains under seal, according to court and prison data.
Arkady Bukh, a New York-based lawyer who has represented dozens of clients from the post-Soviet world accused of crimes, told RFE/RL that it was "highly unusual" for the United States to deport a felon back to Russia to serve out a jail term because of Moscow’s noncompliance with the terms.
He said he could only recall one other case in which the Department of Justice agreed to deport a Russian national serving a prison term in the United States back home.
Bukh said the decision to deport Burkov could indicate that the hacker either gave the United States information or that he may be part of an exchange.
He said he expected Russia to release Burkov from prison within a few months.
Burkov had been the subject of a three-year diplomatic scuffle between Russia, Israel, and the United States.
He was arrested in December 2015 at the behest of the U.S. Justice Department while leaving Israel and deported to the United States in November 2019.
Moscow had pressed the Israeli government to send Burkov to Russia.
After Burkov's deportation, Russia's Foreign Ministry accused Washington of "hunting" Russian citizens around the world.
Report: U.S. Deports Convicted Russian Hacker Back Home
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