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Spanish Court OKs Extradition Of Russian Hacker To U.S.


Pyotr Levashov during an extradition hearing earlier this year.
Pyotr Levashov during an extradition hearing earlier this year.

Spain’s high court has authorized the extradition of a Russian man wanted by U.S. authorities for running a massive computer bot that sent tens of millions of spam e-mails over many years.

The October 3 decision on Pyotr Levashov was a blow to Russia, which has fought U.S. authorities in multiple European courts over the extradition of computer hackers and alleged cybercriminals.

The Spanish National Court said Levashov should stand trial in the United States, where officials have called him one of the world’s most notorious criminal spammers.

Levashov, 37, was arrested by Spanish police in Barcelona in April while he was vacationing with his family. A U.S. grand jury indictment that was unsealed then accused him of charges of fraud, aggravated identity theft, and other crimes.

Russia has also fought aggressively to get Levashov returned to his home country, and the fight over where he should stand trial was one of several involving Russian hackers detained in different European countries at Washington's request.

Moscow has complained repeatedly about the detention of Russian citizens abroad, accusing U.S. officials of "kidnapping" them.

In Greece, U.S. and Russian officials are tussling over the fate of Aleksandr Vinnik, whom U.S. officials accuse of running a $4 billion money laundering scheme using the virtual currency bitcoin.

The Greek court considering those requests is expected to issue a decision on October 4.

And, in the Czech Republic, Yevgeniy Nikulin is awaiting a decision by Czech justice officials on whether he will be sent to the United States or Russia to stand trial on similar computer-hacking charges.

Another Russian, Roman Seleznev, pleaded guilty earlier this month in a U.S. court for participating in what U.S. authorities said was a cybertheft ring that allegedly stole over $50 million using hacked credit-card information.

Seleznev was arrested in 2014 by U.S. agents as he tried to enter the Maldives on vacation.

The aggressive U.S. pursuit of hackers and alleged cybercriminals from Russia and elsewhere dates back several years.

Some of the hackers have been tied by U.S. intelligence to more politically motivated cybercrimes, possibly done at the behest of the Russian security agencies, such as the Federal Security Service (FSB).

Seleznev at one point bragged about his "protection" by the FSB’s main cybercrime division, according to U.S. law enforcement documents filed in federal court.

Russian news reports said Levashov’s lawyers had three days to appeal the court decision.

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    RFE/RL's Uzbek Service

    RFE/RL's Uzbek Service relies on innovation and a wide network of local sources and platforms to uncover news and engage with audiences in one of the world’s most restrictive societies.

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    Mike Eckel

    Mike Eckel is a senior correspondent reporting on political and economic developments in Russia, Ukraine, and around the former Soviet Union, as well as news involving cybercrime and espionage. He's reported on the ground on Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the wars in Chechnya and Georgia, and the 2004 Beslan hostage crisis, as well as the annexation of Crimea in 2014.