A Russian citizen who was indicted in October last year for hacking into the computer networks of US-based companies including LinkedIn, Dropbox and Formspring can soon be extradited to either America or Russia, a Czech court ruled this week (Wednesday 5 April).
Yevgeniy Nikulin, 29, was detained in Prague last year after an Interpol Red Notice was issued for his arrest. He was picked up while dining in a restaurant shortly after arriving in the country with his girlfriend. Czech officers acted in collaboration with investigators from the FBI.
Ever since, Nikulin has remained at the centre of a legal battle between the US and Russia: both want him.
Moscow officials have said he needs to return to the country to face allegations from 2009 that he hacked a bank account and stole the equivalent of over $1,000.
The US, meanwhile, has indicted him for a number of charges including damage to computers, trafficking in access devices, aggravated identity theft and conspiracy.
The US Department of Justice (DoJ) has said he faces 30 years in prison and hefty fines if convicted.
Now, Czech prosecution spokesperson Stepanka Zenklova has said both extradition requests are equally valid and Prague's Municipal Court will soon decide the defendant's fate.
At the time of writing, a date for an extradition hearing has not been set, but a final decision is expected in the coming days.
The Associated Press (AP) said Zenklova revealed that Nikulin declined to testify in his case. "If it's up to him, he would prefer extradition to Russia," she added. When it comes to it, Justice Minister Robert Pelikan will have the final say.
As reported at the time, Nikulin was arrested on 5 October and has remained in the Czech Republic since. LinkedIn later revealed the arrest was in relation to a cyberattack from 2012, which compromised the account details of over 100 million users.
It is not believed the US is seeking Nikulin in relation to the massive hack at the Democratic National Committee (DNC) last year, which has heightened tensions between the US and Russia. Russia's foreign ministry has claimed his arrest was politically motivated.
Nikulin's lawyer, Adam Kopecky, has said his client denies all charges. "When one superpower accuses a citizen of the other of hacking their computers and then the other superpower accuses the same citizen of another crime, it's kind of strange," he told The Guardian earlier this year.
The case continues.
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