Extradition has always been a sour topic, particularly amongst countries that are not the best of friends.
Such a recent split was seen when a 29 years old Russian hacker named Aleksei Burkov was extradited to the USA by Israel for allegedly engaging in acts that led to over $20 million in credit card fraud.
While Russia indeed has objected to this, it didn’t help even though the former went on to offer an exchange of a 26-year-old Israeli woman named Naama Issachar serving a 7-year sentence in Russia currently.
“We regret the decision of Israeli’s High Court of Justice to turn down Mr. Burkov’s appeal on his extradition to [the United States],” the Russian embassy said in a statement Monday.
“This decision constitutes a breach of his rights as well as Israel’s international obligations. This step does not contribute to the development of [Russia-Israel] relations.”
During the hearing at the High Court of Justice last week, Burkov’s lawyers presented what they said was a letter of complaint sent by Russia to Israel saying Jerusalem has been ignoring a Russian extradition request for three years. Burkov’s lawyers also requested that Israel be allowed to hold talks with the US and Russia to reach an agreement on the Russian’s fate.
Issachar’s family also had filed a request to the High Court to request a delay to Burkov’s extradition, but her mother later asked that the petition be withdrawn.
Israeli officials believe Burkov’s looming extradition to the US was part of the reason a Russian court sentenced Issachar on drug trafficking charges after just 10 grams of marijuana were found in her bag as she changed flights at a Moscow airport en route from India to Israel in April.
Justice Minister Amir Ohana earlier this month signed Burkov’s extradition order, saying in a statement that “the decision was made after many in-depth deliberations in recent weeks with various parties, among them political and legal figures.”
Ohana has rejected tying Issachar’s fate to Burkov, warning that other countries could detain Israelis if one of their countrymen is wanted for extradition.
Reports in Hebrew-language media have said Israeli officials believe Burkov may be connected to Russian intelligence. Burkov, in an interview with Channel 13, denied any such involvement.
Israeli officials told Hebrew media earlier this month that Jerusalem turned down an offer by Moscow to swap Burkov for Issachar.
A Foreign Ministry official told the Ynet news site last month that Israel hopes Issachar will be released by the time of Putin’s planned visit to Jerusalem early next year.
Rallies were held in Tel Aviv and New York on October 19 calling for Issachar’s release.
Facing charges [PDF] in the Eastern Virginia US District Court, the government provided details of Aleksei running a website by the name of Cardplanet from 2019-2013 that sold credit card numbers for an amount ranging from $3-60 – an act very obviously illegal.
Screenshot from court documents
Moreover, it is reported that he also offered a cash-back guarantee in the event that the stolen card didn’t work. Perhaps, this helps explains what made his online store thrive to bring in such a huge amount.
However, this isn’t all. The prosecution also mentioned a second site that dealt in stolen goods, pirated software, hacking for hire services and much more in addition to simple credit card theft.
Moreover, it was an invite-only marketplace with the following criteria to gain membership:
- Get three existing members to recommend you.
- Pay a reasonable sum of money as insurance which was normally $500.
“These measures were designed to keep law enforcement from accessing Burkov’s cybercrime forum and to ensure that members of the forum honored any deals made while conducting business on the forum,” said he Eastern Virgina US Attorney’s office.
As expected, this kept law enforcement officers away from this site as no three criminals would vouch for an FBI agent to smoothly investigate unless of course, three members had already been compromised.
In conclusion, the next hearing is on Friday and we are yet to see how many years Aleksei gets in prison.
It is though to be noted that in the majority of such cases, fraudulent websites and forums are operating on the dark web making it hard to simply track site administrators through IP addresses.
Hence, law enforcement agencies may use special teams engaged in sting operations on the dark web which serves as an example to departments globally looking to adjust to this new wave of concealed crime.