In a high-stakes, divorce-like custody case between Russia and America, a Czech judge has made a decision. If the case in question is like an international tug-of-war between the two big nations, the judge sent the rope to the USA.
An American Gulfstream V landed in Prague on March 24, 2018. It left Václav Havel Airport for Washington on March 30 with Yevgeny Nikulin, a Russian, wanted by the U.S. Justice Department onboard.
Nikulin claimed the FBI offered him immunity, cash, American citizenship and a free apartment if he would claim responsibility for cyber attacks which targeted the 2016 American Presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton.
Writing from a Czech Republic prison in May 2017, Nikulin was the rope in the middle of an extradition fight then taking place amid Washington and Moscow.
“They said to me I would have to concede to breaching Clinton’s email, acting for [Russian President Vladimir] Putin,” Nikulin said.
Nikulin’s lawyer, Martin Sadilek, claimed Nikulin “was instructed to testify he was collaborating in the high-tech assault on the Democratic Party.”
The FBI refused to comment.
LinkedIn, Dropbox and Formspring
Apprehended in Prague in October 2016, Nikulin was charged by a California grand jury with hacking LinkedIn, Dropbox and Formspring — three San Francisco based Internet businesses.
Nikulin was interviewed twice by FBI authorities while waiting in Czech custody. The first was November 2016, and then a second offer was made February 2017.
If Nikulin admitted to cybercrime and hacking Clinton’s presidential campaign, party computers, and United States polling stations — on Putin’s orders — the FBI told him he’d be extradited to America but would eventually be given the cash and other goodies.
So far, American authorities have not acknowledged a connection between Nikulin and the Clinton hacking, but his arrest came a short three days before Obama’s administration accused Russia of providing stolen emails to WikiLeaks.
Nikulin is the cyber crook du jour, but other Russian hackers have made a bigger splash. Two are Vladimir Levin and Igor Klopov.
Vladimir Levin was busted for swiping over $10 million from large Citibank clients. Levin was arrested at a London airport as he was heading to his flight going home to Russia.
Igor Klopov is possibly the most well-known former cyber hacker. Klopov used financial data of American billionaires from Forbes 400 as a shopping list to break into credit bases. Klopov made off with $1.5 million, according to Russia Beyond. Klopov was lured to New York by investigators and arrested. After spending time in prison, Klopov now works as a security expert with CyberSec and works closely with Jerry Nelson, an internationally known journalist covering cybercrime and related topics.
Petr Levashov, a Russian national, was extradited from Spain in 2008 for operating a global network of tens of thousands of computers called the Kelihos botnet. Authorities alleged for years, Levashov made a nice living by controlling the botnet and credited the FBI with helping capture Levashov. As usual, the truth isn’t so cut-and-dried.
Vlad Horohorin is described by American law enforcement as one of the five most wanted cyber criminals. Horohorin founded CarderPlanet, an online board for connecting other cybercriminals globally. Extradited in 2012, he was sentenced to 88 months behind bars.
Dmitry Belorossov was extradited from Spain in 2014 and ultimately sentenced to four-and-a-half years for his part in the ‘Citadel’ malware scheme. The now-26-year-old had been charged with conspiring to commit computer fraud for his role in a half-billion cybercrime plan which infected over 11 million computers globally.
Dmitry Smilyanets is the former head of Moscow 5. Smilanets was caught in an FBI program to crack down on credit card fraud. According to the prosecution, Smilyanets and four other Russians stole names, passwords and credit/debit card numbers between 2005 and 2012. Although sentenced to prison for four years, Smilyanets walked out of his sentencing hearing a free man. He had already served his sentence behind bars during the investigation and trial.
Back to Nikulin
For his part, if convicted, Nikulin faces up to 30-years in prison, $1 million in fines and a place in rogue’s gallery.