Megaupload execs’ extradition may be at risk after new spying revelations

GCSB couldn't say more without jeopardizing the national security of New Zealand.

Kim Dotcom speaks to the media following a bail hearing at Auckland District Court on December 1, 2014 in Auckland, New Zealand.

Kim Dotcom speaks to the media following a bail hearing at Auckland District Court on December 1, 2014 in Auckland, New Zealand.

The High Court of New Zealand, the country’s intermediate appellate court, has ruled that the entire government spying operation conducted against two of Kim Dotcom’s closest colleagues was not authorized under local law in 2011.

According to a court filing newly released on Friday afternoon, Auckland time (late Thursday evening, Eastern Time), the Government Communications Security Bureau conducted an "unlawful" and "unreasonable search" of Bram van der Kolk and Mathias Ortmann, two Megaupload executives. The GCSB is the New Zealand equivalent of the National Security Agency in the United States.

At the time, van der Kolk (like Dotcom himself) was a permanent resident of New Zealand, which meant that he should have been exempted from being spied upon by the GCSB, which apparently failed to adequately verify their immigration status.

Ortmann, a German citizen, had arrived in New Zealand in time to celebrate Dotcom's birthday on January 20, 2012—the same day that the fateful raid on the Dotcom mansion took place. Since shortly after his arrest, Ortmann has been free on bail, but he has not been allowed to leave the country since.

Both van der Kolk and Ortmann challenged the spying in 2016.

These men, like Dotcom, are currently appealing their extradition order to the United States. The Megaupload founder and his colleagues have been battling an American criminal copyright case from New Zealand for years now, and so far they've successfully resisted extradition.

"The entire scope"

Grant Illingworth, an Auckland-based attorney who represents both van der Kolk and Ortmann, told Ars late Thursday evening that the new admission illustrates the lengths that the GCSB went to at the behest of American authorities.

Illingworth explained that because Ortmann, a foreigner visiting New Zealand, successfully challenged the GCSB spying operation with no objection from the government, the entirety of the surveillance of the Megaupload men is now called into question.

"We now believe on the basis of this judgement that the GCSB were acting outside their powers even in relation to a foreign person—because if they were entitled to spy on [Ortmann], GCSB would have denied the allegations," he said. "Which means the illegal spying must have been more than the permanent residence issue—in other words the whole operation was outside the scope of the powers of the GCSB."

In July 2017, another court ruling found that the GCSB had been spying on Dotcom himself for two months longer than had previously been known.

On Friday, a spokeswoman for the GCSB told the New Zealand Herald: "it was not possible for GCSB to plead to the allegations… without revealing information which would jeopardise the national security of New Zealand."

She added that van der Kolk and Ortmann "settled their claims earlier this year."

No endgame in sight

For now, it remains unclear how this new revelation will affect ongoing extradition proceedings and appeals. Dotcom's attorneys are set to appear for a February 2018 appellate extradition hearing at the Court of Appeals in Wellington.

"This judgment does further clarify that it's further a violation of the New Zealand Bill of Rights," Ira Rothken, Dotcom's chief global counsel, told Ars in a phone call late Thursday evening in California.

"There are a lot of issues of first impression in this case, the extradition issues are being tested for the first time. We have a trail of government abuse to now what we're calling an illegal search, and we also have the US, having been found by the New Zealand court to have violated New Zealand law when they took the data offshore without permission. At some point, and we think that point has been met, the case should be dismissed in the interests of justice. How much government abuse do you have to have where the duty of good faith and candor can be violated by the government and the abuse can be so great that no court should entertain an extradition proceeding so tainted with irregularities?"

Suspected drug lord Muhammad Asif Hafeez faces extradition to US

Pakistani national accused of leading international narcotics syndicate appears in London court after UK-US operation

Armed police in London. Muhammad Asif Hafeez is alleged to be head of a narcotics smuggling empire spanning Europe, Africa, Asia and North America.  Photograph: Jill Mead for the Guardian

Armed police in London. Muhammad Asif Hafeez is alleged to be head of a narcotics smuggling empire spanning Europe, Africa, Asia and North America. Photograph: Jill Mead for the Guardian

The alleged mastermind behind a global narcotics smuggling empire has appeared in court after being seized in London in a UK-US operation. Muhammad Asif Hafeez, who was arrested at property in the Regent’s Park area, faces extradition to the US.

The National Crime Agency (NCA) in London said after the arrest that communications between members of Hafeez’s syndicate showed he was known as the Sultan.

Hafeez, 58, a Pakistani national, is alleged to be the head of an organisation spanning Europe, Africa, Asia and North America, that produced and smuggled drugs including heroin, methamphetamine, or crystal meth, and ephedrine.

The NCA worked with the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) to investigate Hafeez after he was allegedly identified as the source of large quantities of heroin being smuggled into Kenya from Pakistan and Afghanistan. He is said to have been supplying a family-based narcotics syndicate in Mombasa with what he boasted was “diamond carat”-quality heroin.

The family involved had been smuggling drugs into and out of Kenya for decades, according to US diplomatic cables published by WikiLeaks. One leading member of the clan was killed in a drive-by shooting in Amsterdam’s red light district in 2000.

Members of the Kenyan gang were allegedly recorded as they agreed to sell 99kg (218 lbs) of the Sultan’s heroin to a group of men they thought were South American drug dealers looking to smuggle it into the US, but who were in fact working for the DEA.

At one point during the sting operation, the South Americans were introduced to the Sultan during a Skype call, which was covertly recorded. Four men were subsequently arrested in a raid on a mansion in the wealthy Mombasa beach suburb of Nyali and were extradited to the US this year. The 99kg of heroin was seized.

Another seizure related to Hafeez’s alleged narcotics trafficking involved the recovery of 18 tonnes of ephedrine in India.

The NCA said the allegations he faced included agreeing to smuggle narcotics into the US since at least 2013. Hafeez is said to own two properties in London, and spend most of his time in Dubai. He appeared at Westminster magistrates court on Friday for the start of extradition proceedings to the US, where he is wanted on charges of conspiring to import drugs. One of Hafeez’s sons looked on from the public gallery.

Wearing spectacles, a turquoise polo shirt and black leather jacket, Hafeez sat with his arms crossed as Hashim Chaudri, prosecuting, said he could face life imprisonment in the US. Chaudri opposed bail stating that Hafeez had “significant contacts and assets throughout the world” and a large amount of wealth. “A simple reason to believe he will not surrender is that he himself and his co-conspirators agreed to buy drugs, there is significant evidence against him,” he added.

Russell Nicholson, defending, said Hafeez was a businessman and trader who said he was the victim of mistaken identity.Nicholson added that Hafeez had no previous convictions in “any jurisdiction in the world” and could offer a £100,000 security if granted bail.

The district judge, Rebecca Crane, refused bail.

The NCA branch commander, Martin Huxley, said: “This is a hugely significant arrest of a man suspected of being the head of a global drug production and distribution network, with links across Asia, Europe and North America.

“Because of the scale of the criminality alleged here, this is an international investigation, and the NCA has worked extremely closely with our partners in the US and UK.

“The organised crime groups involved in drug trafficking at this level fuel violence and exploitation at every step, from the locations overseas where drugs are farmed and produced right through to the dealers on UK street corners.”

As police arrest British fugitives in Spain, are the days of the Costa del Crime numbered?

Mark 'Fatboy' Lilley was grabbed from his villa in southern Spain by police last weekend. The arrest was the latest to signal the end of an era when UK criminals could find a sunny haven on the Med

Mark Lilley is arrested in his villa near Malaga.

Mark Lilley is arrested in his villa near Malaga.

The shaky handheld camera. The barking dogs. The hovering helicopter. The crack of splintered wood as the metal "enforcer" smashes its way into the villa. The garish four-poster bed. The hidden pistol. The bolted "panic room". Yes, it must be the latest flashy crime procedural to hit our screens, wearing all its cliches as proudly as a freshly inked tattoo.

But no, this film was made by the Spanish police and it showed the arrest last weekend of a fugitive British criminal. Mark Lilley, aka "Fatboy", "Mandy" and "Big Vern", a 41-year-old drug dealer from Merseyside, was arrested after more than 12 years on the run. The whole operation, from the scaling of the front gates of his villa in Alhaurín de la Torre near Málaga, to the exposure of his en suite lair, was captured on film. Although trained in the Brazilian martial art of vale tudo(which means "anything goes"), and guarded by three large dogs, Lilley went quietly.

The arrest came two months after another Briton on the run, Andrew Moran, was grabbed by his pool in Calpe on Spain's Costa Blanca. That arrest was also filmed, although Moran disobligingly spoiled his close-up by vaulting over a wall and pulling his T-shirt over his head before he was finally caught.

He had escaped four years earlier from Burnley crown court, where he was convicted in his absence of conspiring to commit armed robbery. Lilley was the 51st criminal on the 65-strong Operation Captura wanted list – drawn up by the Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca) – to have his collar felt on the Costas. But to some it seems strange that British criminals still opt for Spanish hideaways. Have they never seenSexy Beast?

"The attraction for Spain is still there, as there is a huge expat British population," said Dave Allen, head of the fugitives unit at Soca. But there are other European options. "The language is not too much of an issue in the Netherlands either – the Dutch speak very good English and are culturally similar to the British, so it's easy to fit in." But some are now looking further afield: "The places we're seeing them go to now are Thailand, certainly, South Africa, and the United Arab Emirates."

He said that 133 fugitives were arrested abroad at the request of the UK last year. "The people we put on the Crimestoppers website – it's not a top 10 'most wanted' list; that's an American thing – are the ones seen to be the most dangerous. They are wanted for violent crimes, predatory sex offences and the like."

The arrests of Lilley and Moran represent something of a coup for Soca, helped by the fact that they were filmed and thus received maximum publicity. Another high-profile fugitive was apprehended in Athens on the same day as Lilley, but the Greek police did not film it, so it received less coverage. Kevin Hanley, from Fulham, west London, wanted in connection with drug dealing, was caught as he tucked into sausage, eggs and soda bread in front of the Lions v Wallabies game at Molly Malone's pub in the suburb of Glyfada. The police knew he was a rugby fan and had staked out the limited number of places in Athens where the big game could be watched.

Jason Coghlan, a former armed robber from Manchester who served time with Lilley as a category A prisoner in Strangeways, now runs a Marbella law firm, JaCogLaw, which advises ex-pats who are in trouble with the authorities. Its website boasts an impressive series of quotations from Aristotle to Gladstone, although the one probably most likely to catch the eye of potential clients is from 18th-century jurist William Blackstone: "Better that 10 guilty men escape justice than that one innocent man goes to prison."

Coghlan, who is setting up a similar outfit in Bangkok, thinks that Spain is a daft place to hide. "If you're a villain on the run in Spain, you're just in a queue waiting to get nicked. What a lot of them don't realise is that the Spanish police can even trace where your emails are coming from. Being on the run is no life – and it's no life for the family of someone on the run. Some of them think that, with the passage of time, their sentences will be reduced. But the sentences don't go away."

He said that if he were on the run himself, he would probably head for eastern Europe, either Albania or Romania. "A lot of the armed robbers come to Spain because they can go into drug smuggling – it's the number one place, not just because of the hashish from Morocco but because of cocaine coming in from Mexico."

Coghlan said he thought the tip-offs that led to the arrests of Britons generally came not from sharp-eyed members of the public but from other members of the underground: "If someone throws their weight around and makes a nuisance of themselves, that might lead to a tip-off." And he's sceptical about the idea of villains now having a panic room along with the pool and the four-poster. "I think that was just a hidey-hole – people call it a panic room because of the film."

But take a virtual stroll through the English-language estate agents' websites in Spain and you will be amazed how many homes offer "bullet-proof glass" as a special feature along with the spa bath and barbecue area.

In a brief window between 1978 and 1985 when extradition agreements between Spain and the UK broke down, a number of wanted men settled on the "Costa del Crime". Ronnie Knight, the former husband of Barbara Windsor, is credited with establishing Spain as a getaway destination. But his Costa days are over; he now lives in sheltered accommodation near Cambridge and told magistrates, when he was charged with drink-driving last year, that he mainly uses his car to help fellow residents with their shopping.

The Spanish authorities are less tolerant these days of the expat criminals who land on their doorstep: there were 1,599 arrests of Britons there last year. But by no means all of them are on a par with the likes of Lilley and Moran.

"Most of the foreign nationals arrested in Spain don't fit the stereotype of the 'Mr Big' of the crime world," said Jago Russell of UK charity Fair Trials International. "Many of the dozens of people we help each year are arrested for minor crimes, and many of these are ultimately cleared, often after months or years in pre-trial detention." Another charity, Prisoners Abroad, which looks after Britons held overseas, says Spain is top of its list in Europe, with 95 clients there.

So if not Spain, where? Turkish-occupied Northern Cyprus, which has no extradition arrangement with the UK because it is not recognised as a country, became popular for a while – as Asil Nadir's long exile showed. But last year Soca launched Operation Zygos, which covers the whole of island, with nine fugitives in its sights. The northern government now stresses that it does not want to become a haven for Brits fleeing justice.

Lee Murray, the half-Moroccan cage-fighter and ringleader of the gang that stole £53m cash from a Securitas depot in Kent in 2006, headed for Morocco when he fled, holing up in Rabat with another member of his gang. But he ignored the first rule for criminals on the run: blend in. The locals thought the pair must be gay, because it was so unusual for single men to be living together, and this attracted attention which eventually led to their arrests. Murray also could not resist splashing his money around. As Howard Sounes describes it, in Heist, his book about the crime, his villa was furnished with "cream leather sofas, an elephant tusk lamp-stand, a harp-shaped bookshelf and gold chairs in the shape of giant sea shells."

Thailand remains a popular criminal hideout. Bogus identity documents are easy to come by, corruption is still rife and, just like Spain, it provides the prerequisites for the Brit-on-the-run: full English breakfast, access to satellite coverage of the Premier League, and sunshine.

One final tip for runaways, apart from avoiding televised rugby matches in Greece: get rid of the tattoos. One of those recently nabbed in Spain had a tattoo of a pit bull terrier and the motto "only the strong survive". How true.

Terror suspect would be stateless after extradition, court told

Supreme court hears case of Minh Pham, who faces extradition to US on terror charges and is fighting to retain UK citizenship

A British passport. 

A British passport. 

A man alleged by MI5 to be involved in “terrorism-related activities” would be rendered stateless if he was removed from Britain, the supreme court has heard.

Minh Pham, who is in his 30s and is being held in prison, has been named for the first time in his three-year legal battle to retain his UK citizenship. He is facing extradition to the US on terrorism charges. The test case is being heard by seven justices in the UK’s highest court.

The appeal comes in the wake of government proposals to limit the right of British citizens to enter the country if they are suspected of returning from involvement in violent Islamic extremism.

Until Tuesday’s hearing Pham’s identity had been withheld. He was named only as B2 in earlier proceedings at the special immigration appeals commission (Siac) and the court of appeal.

Pham was born in Vietnam and came to the UK in 1989. He subsequently acquired British citizenship at the age of 12. When he reached 21 he converted to Islam. He has a British wife and children in the UK.

In 2011, Home Office ministers ordered him to be deprived of British nationality after an MI5 assessment concluded that he was involved in terrorism-related activities. Pham’s lawyers say he would be left stateless if he were deprived of British nationality on security grounds.

Hugh Southey QC said it appeared that Pham in effect lost his Vietnamese nationality when he was granted British citizenship in the 1990s. “It’s highly questionable whether Vietnam would accept him back,” he told the court.

Under a 1954 United Nations convention, countries are not allowed to render individuals stateless. Pham’s case also raises questions about his entitlement to citizenship within the EU. Southey said: “It’s clear that in treaties there’s a well established principle of EU citizenship [in addition to national citizenship].

In Vietnam, any decision about whether an individual is deemed to be a national is an executive rather than judicial matter, the court was told. Judgment is expected to be reserved until next year. The case continues.

Karim Baratov, alleged Yahoo hacker, will bypass extradition hearing and go to U.S. to fight charges

Defence lawyer will detail plan regarding extradition to a judge in Hamilton court next Friday

Karim Baratov, the 22-year-old charged in connection with an American probe into a Yahoo hacking operation, will forgo an extradition hearing scheduled for this fall, electing to head straight to the U.S to face the charges, his lawyer told CBC News on Friday.

Baratov will either waive his right as a Canadian to an extradition hearing entirely, or he'll consent to being extradited. Either path eliminates the need for the hearing and speeds up his opportunity to address the charges, lawyer Amedeo DiCarlo said.

"He can't wait to change scenery," he said.

U.S. authorities allege Baratov, from suburban Ancaster, Ont., was a "hacker for hire" with Russian ties. But Canada would have to surrender Baratov to the U.S. for him to face charges there. Baratov just wants to go deal with the charges in the U.S. as quickly as possible, DiCarlo said.

"Go there, finish it there, let's get some lawyers and let's move on with this," DiCarlo said. "Keeping him here, I think, is just going to waste more time."

Moving forward to the U.S.

Though both paths lead to dealing with the charges he faces directly with American authorities, DiCarlo wasn't sure on Friday which one he'll choose. There would be different outcomes for each option. He plans to detail his plan in front of a judge in Hamilton court on Aug. 18.

 

'Keeping him here, I think, is just going to waste more time.'- Amedeo DiCarlo, lawyer for Karim Baratov

Waiving the extradition — essentially turning himself in to American authorities — could open Baratov to any additional charges the U.S. decides to bring, DiCarlo said.

Consenting to the extradition would still give Canada's justice minister up to 90 days to sign off on transferring Baratov to the U.S. But despite that potential delay, consenting would send Baratov to the U.S. only under the charges of the indictment that was already released in March.

DiCarlo said he is meeting this weekend in the U.S. with lawyers from Manhattan-based firm Murray, Mancilla and Fantone LLP to try to get closer to a decision on which route he will take. The talks so far have not been about making deals for information or how Baratov will plead in exchange for better treatment, DiCarlo said.

But he said he's eager to get his client to the U.S. to start addressing the allegations head-on instead of in the kind of proxy battle he's been engaged in during bail hearings and preliminary extradition talks.

'He's not the person they described'

Baratov was arrested March 14 in Hamilton under the Extradition Act after U.S. authorities indicted him and three others for computer hacking, economic espionage and other crimes.

Baratov has been held without bail since his arrest after an Ontario Superior Court judge ruled in April that he was too much of a flight risk to be released prior to an extradition hearing.

Yahoo said last September that information from at least 500 million user accounts had been stolen in a cyberattack two years earlier. Baratov is accused of hacking 80 Yahoo accounts and faces 20 years in prison in the U.S., if convicted.

The U.S. also charged two Russian intelligence officers and a fourth man.

Baratov's lawyers have said their client had no idea who he was dealing with, or exactly what he was doing. The FBI documents submitted to secure his arrest in Canada paint a false picture, DiCarlo said. "He's not the person they described," he said. "What are they afraid of? This guy's going to go make 20 passports and become 20 people and then hack the world? No!

"It's not even close to that," DiCarlo said. "So it's so blown out of proportion and I think that's kind of where we are."

India to sign more extradition treaties, block escape routes of financial criminals

Assuring the Parliament there was no let up in hot pursuit of the financial criminals fleeing overseas, the Indian Government has said that it is entering into extradition treaties with as many countries possible so that there is no escape route left for offenders.

Congress leadership protesting against Government's failures and alleged help to Lalit Modi by the MEA.  Photo courtesy: Congress Sandesh

Congress leadership protesting against Government's failures and alleged help to Lalit Modi by the MEA. Photo courtesy: Congress Sandesh

Responding to concerns raised by some Members of Parliament, the Minister of State for External Affairs VK Singh said, "It is the policy of the Government of India to conclude Extradition treaties with as many countries as possible so as to ensure that fugitive criminals do not escape justice."

"The Government of India has been making every effort to bring back fugitive criminals who have fled after committing a crime in the country. The Government of India enacted the Extradition Act, 1962 which deals with the law and the matters relating to the extradition of fugitive criminals. Furthermore, India has signed extradition treaties with 47 countries and entered into extradition arrangements with nine more countries to facilitate extradition. In the last fifteen years, India successfully brought back 62 fugitive criminals from various foreign countries," Singh said.

According to the Minister, in 2016, a total of four criminal fugitives namely Abdul Wahid Siddibapa (UAE), Kumar Krishna Pillai (Singapore), Samirbhai Vinubhai Patel (UK) and Abdul Rauf Merchant (Bangladesh) were successfully extradited/deported to India.

TheDepartment of Economic Affairs, Ministry of Finance, has also prepared a Draft Fugitive Economic Offenders Bill, 2017 which provides for confiscation of assets of fugitive economic offenders.

To another query regarding Vijay Mallya and Lalit Modi, the second Minister of State for External Affairs M J Akbar inform the House that pursuant to India-UK Extradition Treaty, a formal request for extradition of Mallya was forwarded to the UK authorities on 9th February 2017 through diplomatic channels. On 2 and 3 May 2017, a team led by the Additional Director, CBI and comprising officers from CBI and Enforcement Directorate visited London and provided additional documents in support of the extradition request and answered the queries raised by the concerned UK authorities. The case is pending adjudication before the Westminster Magistrate’s Court, London. Extradition hearings are scheduled to commence from 4 December 2017.

Regarding Modi, the Central Crime Branch, Tamil Nadu police registered a FIR on 13 October 2010 against Modi. On the basis of criminal investigations initiated by Tamil Nadu police, a case under Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002 (PMLA) was registered by the Enforcement Directorate.

Further, at the request of the Enforcement Directorate, Modi’s passport was revoked by Regional Passport Office, Mumbai on 3 March 2011 which was later restored to him on the directions of Delhi High Court. In November 2012, the Government of UK was formally requested to deport Lalit Modi to India. The UK Government vide their message dated 21 December 2012 denied our request citing their domestic laws. However, the UK side suggested India to submit a request under the usual mechanism for international judicial cooperation.

Accordingly, the Enforcement Directorate got issued a Letter of Request by the Special Court, PMLA, Mumbai for the execution of the Non-Bailable Warrant on Mr. Lalit Modi and his consequent transfer to India in terms of the relevant provisions contained in the PMLA, 2002 and the India-UK Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT) on criminal matters.

The said Letter was forwarded to the competent authorities in UK on 6 February 2017. However, a formal response from the UK side in this regard is still awaited. The Ministry of External Affairs(MEA) has not received any formal request for extradition of Modi from the concerned law enforcement agencies in India, Akbar informed the House.

Two Romanian criminals who slipped into Britain cannot be extradited on human rights grounds because jail cells in the country are too small

 

  • High Court blocked extradition of two Romanian criminals over human rights

  • Justices said prisons in their homeland were 'too cramped' to send them there

  • Taxpayers will have to cover the costs of court case and legal aid bills

Cosmin-Ionut Bagarea, pictured, is one of two Romanian criminals who cannot be extradited out of the UK because 'jail cells in his homeland are too small'

Cosmin-Ionut Bagarea, pictured, is one of two Romanian criminals who cannot be extradited out of the UK because 'jail cells in his homeland are too small'

Two Romanian fugitives cannot be extradited because jail cells in their homeland are too small. UK judges say the cramped conditions contravene rulings from the European Court of Human Rights.

The court insists prisoners must ordinarily be allowed ‘personal space’ of around three metres squared. The Romanians face spending all or most of their sentence housed in a space of two metres squared.

Justices at the High Court in London want assurances that the men would have more space before they grant extradition requests. The ruling has delayed the removal of the pair from Britain – hitting taxpayers with court costs and legal aid bills. 

Lord Justice Irwin and Mr Justice Collins were told the Romanians – Ionel-Remus Grecu and Cosmin-Ionut Bagarea – would be sent to semi-open prisons. The jails have smoking zones, unlocked areas for walking, phones and up to ten hours visiting a month.

Also on offer are educational and cultural facilities, social assistance and vocational training outside prison. Grecu, 42, had fled to Britain to dodge serving a prison sentence for membership of a violent burglary gang. 

Seven months after his arrest in February last year he lodged an appeal against an extradition order. Bagarea, 39, was given a suspended prison sentence in January 2012 for growing cannabis.  He broke the terms of his sentence and fled to the UK where he was arrested last September. He is also appealing against extradition.

Court papers show both men would be moved to cells of two metres squared in Romania.

Lord Justice Irwin said lawyers for the two men argued the lack of personal space would breach Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which prohibits torture and inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

He said it would be ‘highly undesirable if extradition to Romania stalls’. But he said the process had be put on hold to give the Romanian authorities a chance to guarantee three metres squared for the men. 

He added: ‘The guarantee would need to be in clear terms, and terms which cover the whole of the anticipated terms of detention.’The Romanians were represented by a QC specialising in extradition law.

INMATES CAN ROAM AROUND ALL DAY... 

Although many prisons in Romania have cramped cells, inmates still enjoy a range of benefits and privileges. ‘Semi-open’ jails, where Grecu and Bagarea would serve most if not all of their prison terms, give inmates plenty of freedom.

Details are spelt out in the High Court judgment on their appeal against extradition. Detainees can buy food every week in the prison shops and may be granted the right to spend all day outside their detention rooms. They have to return to their rooms only for meals and evening roll call. Despite this, 19 Romanian prisons were hit by protests against poor conditions and overcrowding last year.

Bagarea’s Hampshire-based half-brother said the fugitive had been granted legal aid to fight extradition.George Munteanu also said the philosophy graduate had landed a job pending deportation proceedings.

‘Living in the UK has put him on the right path and changed his life,’ said Mr Munteanu, who came to Britain five years ago. ‘He has a job at Southampton port handling people’s luggage.

‘I think he has got legal aid. I don’t have money to help him and it is quite expensive. He came to the UK about three years ago and he likes it here. He has made a fresh start. I am sure he won’t want to go back to Romania.’

Theresa May has quietly dropped plans for the UK to quit the jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights – which is not part of the European Union – until Brexit negotiations are completed.

As home secretary, she had raised concerns about the ECHR after it blocked the Government from expelling the hate preacher Abu Qatada.The move is expected to maintain the court’s jurisdiction until 2022 – the end of this parliament.

This week the Prime Minister unveiled details of an offer to the 3.2million EU citizens living in the UK, designed to reassure them that their rights will not be threatened. The majority will automatically qualify for a new ‘settled status’ once they have been in Britain five years, which will guarantee their rights to access public services for life.

But Government sources said that the package would allow officials to identify ‘serious and persistent criminals’ from EU states who would then be considered for deportation. Brexit Secretary David Davis said he did not expect anyone to be deported ‘unless they’ve committed a crime or [pose] some sort of security problem’. 

 


 

Will Donald Trump Free This Russian Superhacker?

A Putin ally and his criminal son bet big on Trump winning the White House. Will the new president reward their faith in him?

The Federal Detention Center near Seattle is home to 563 men and women who are all waiting for something. Some are accused criminals approaching trial, others are immigrants facing deportation, a few are serving a sentence and waiting for their release date to arrive. For the last year, Russian hacker Roman Seleznev has been waiting for Donald Trump.

Seleznev, 32, was once among the United States’ most-wanted computer criminals, sought for stealing credit-card numbers from restaurant point-of-sale systems and selling them in underground internet forums for millions. Then in July 2014 he made the mistake of leaving his native Russia for a resort vacation in the Maldives. U.S. officials persuaded local police to pick up Seleznev and turn him over to Secret Service agents, who hustled him onto a private jet, then onward to the U.S. Pacific island of Guam for easy extradition to Seattle.

In some ways, Seleznev’s rendition was not extraordinary. Russia has no extradition treaty with America, so U.S. cops have learned to indict Russian nationals in secret, then seek their arrest when they travel abroad. That’s what happened in January when police in Barcelona arrested 32-year-old Stanislav Lisov, wanted for allegedly looting U.S. bank accounts. And in October, Czech police picked up Russian national Yevgeny Nikulin in Pragueon allegations he hacked DropBox and LinkedIn. Both men are fighting extradition to the U.S.

Seleznev, though, is not just another Russian hacker. His father is Valery Seleznev, an outspoken member of the Russian parliament in the ultranationalist Liberal Democratic Party of Russia, and a political ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin. The arrest immediately put added strain on U.S.-Russian relations already tested by Putin’s annexation of Crimea and the U.S.-led sanctions that followed. Russia’s foreign ministry held a press conference lashing out at the “kidnapping,” while the senior Seleznev insisted his son was no hacker, telling a Russian news agency, “This is some monstrous lie and provocation.”

Adjudicating Seleznev’s cases has been slow going for the U.S. In the last year alone the hacker has twice fired his lawyers, winning months-long postponements in his court dates each time. In April, frustrated prosecutors accused Seleznev of using delay tactics to try and put off the proceedings until after the 2016 election. “Defendant’s false and naïve belief that U.S. politics have any bearing on his case has been a constant theme in his conversations with his father.”

Prosecutors traced Seleznev’s election insights to a cryptic Dec. 15, 2015, phone call between the hacker and his father. On that day, Roman called Valery in Moscow to break the news that he’d lost a key motion attacking the lawfulness of his arrest. The senior Seleznev told him to keep his chin up, according to a translation by the Bureau of Prisons.

Valery: “You can be mad, but don’t go wild with rage.”Roman: “No, I mean I need to keep going to go to the trial. I will keep going.”Valery: “Absolutely.”Roman: “Yes.”Valery: “Besides, the relationships between the countries can improve. You know what I mean?”Roman: “That’s what I am hoping for.”Valery: “Well, they will get better, I am sure about that.”Roman: “Well, some day they will get better for sure.” [Giggles]Valery: “No, I think that they are already better.”Roman: “Really?”Valery: “Uh-huh.”Roman: “OK, OK.”Valery: “Yes.”

It’s unclear what inside information, if any, Valery Seleznev possessed on Dec. 15, 2015. Secretary of State John Kerry was in Moscow that day for preliminary meetings on the Syria crisis, which might have given the Russian lawmaker hope for better U.S. relations.

The phone call occurred months after Russian government hackers first infiltrated the network of the Democratic National Committee, and was sandwiched between two milestones in Putin-Trump relations. Just five days earlier, on Dec. 10, 2015, retired U.S. Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn attended a Moscow conference celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Kremlin-controlled television network RT. Flynn was a paid speaker at the event. Vladimir Putin was the guest of honor at the evening gala that followed, and photographs and video from the dinner showed Flynn seated at his right hand—something barely noted at the time, but which drew renewed attention last month when Trump appointed Flynn as his National Security Advisor.

Then on Dec. 17, Putin spoke publicly on GOP-primary frontrunner Donald Trump for the first time. “He is a bright and talented person without any doubt,” he said, describing Trump as “the absolute leader of the presidential race.” Trump returned the praise later that day. “It is always a great honor to be so nicely complimented by a man so highly respected within his own country and beyond.”

By Dec. 20, Seleznev’s father was urging his son to engineer a delay in his trial by claiming he and his lawyers needed an additional year to examine the voluminous evidence in the case. “What I am saying is that one year will pass and another reporting period will start,” he said. “You know?” Seleznev decided to reject a government plea offer of 17 years in prison. “It seems like the political relationships are getting better,” he told his girlfriend that day. “Trump will be their president. He and Putin seem to be getting along.”

Despite the delays, Seleznev went to trial last August, and was convicted of 38 counts of computer intrusion and credit-card fraud. (Seleznev’s attorney didn’t respond to telephone and email inquiries for this story.) He’s looking at around 25 years in prison under America’s merciless federal sentencing guidelines, and still faces additional charges in Atlanta and Las Vegas for bank fraud and racketeering. His sentencing is set for April 2017.

Since his trial, of course, Roman Seleznev has been proven right about the outcome of the election, and last month Donald Trump was sworn into the office he won with the covert support of Kremlin-controlled hackers. The question is whether Roman and Valery Seleznev were also right that Trump’s election would improve Roman Seleznev’s lot.

Such an intervention could take many forms, ranging from pressuring prosecutors to seek a shorter sentence, all the way to executive clemency, in the mold of Obama’s commutation of Chelsea Manning’s 35-year sentence in January. The easiest and least politically fraught would be to wait for Seleznev’s cases to run their course, then quietly send him home to Russia in a “treaty transfer.” Officially, Seleznev would then be expected to serve his sentence in a Russian prison, but he’d be subject to that country’s rules on early release or parole. Given his political connections he might just be cut loose, but even if he wasn’t he’d be better off than in the U.S. federal system, which has no parole.

But former prosecutors interviewed by The Daily Beast are doubtful that Trump will pull strings for the Russian hacker.

“I would be shocked,” said David Hickton, who resigned in November as the U.S. attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania, where he oversaw significant indictments against Russian criminal hackers, and the first-ever indictment against intruders from the Chinese government. “I think there would be all sorts of uproar if the practice of this administration were for the White House to interfere with cases being handled by the Department of Justice.”

Hickton, now director of the University of Pittsburgh Institute for Cyber Law, Policy and Security, says previous administrations kept a strict written policy governing contact with Justice. “It was generally not appropriate for people in the Department of Justice to talk to the White House about any particular case,” he told The Daily Beast. “No partisan interfering, no political interfering, and no interference from above.”

If Trump holds to the same ethical norms—and, given the first few weeks of this administration, that’s by no means a sure bet—Seleznev’s prospects are limited. The president could legitimately pardon the hacker or commute his sentence, or enact a general policy that benefits future Russians targeted by U.S. prosecutors. Only time will tell. And Roman Seleznev has plenty of that.

Ukrainian oligarch with ties to Trump campaign wants Chicago case tossed

Nearly three months after an Austrian court ruled that Ukrainian oligarch Dmitry Firtash can be extradited to Chicago, we're still no closer to knowing if he'll ever show up.

The billionaire — who has ties to the Kremlin and to President Donald Trump's former campaign manager Paul Manafort — is wanted in federal court to face racketeering charges.

But his all-star legal team, which includes former U.S. Attorney Dan Webb, Clinton White House counsel Lanny Davis and former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff aren't waiting for Firtash to land on American soil.

Webb on Tuesday filed a motion asking U.S. District Court Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer to toss the case, arguing that the alleged international titanium racket that Firtash is accused of masterminding has nothing to do with Chicago or the U.S.

"Firtash has never applied for the visa required to enter the United States and has never set foot in the country," Webb wrote. "The Indictment fails to allege a single illicit act by Firtash that either occurred in the United States or affected the United States."

Though prosecutors allege the scheme included plans to sell titanium to Chicago-based Boeing, Webb argues that the only agreement with Boeing was to "work toward" a deal. And the only other ties to Chicago are the use of a cellphone that was registered in the city, he adds.

Wanted in Chicago since 2013, Firtash's extradition has been complicated by a case filed against him in Spain. Austrian Justice Minister Wolfgang Brandstetter said in February that he would not push forward with extradition until the Austrian courts have ruled on the Spanish claim on Firtash.

If Firtash is brought to Chicago, interest in his case will be stoked by his past business dealings with Manafort, detailed in court filings in a separate, civil case in New York. Manafort's ties to Russia are under federal investigation.

Chicago U.S. attorney's office spokesman Joseph Fitzpatrick declined to comment Tuesday.

Ukrainian oligarch Dmitry Firtash's extradition to Chicago on hold

There has been a hitch in the extradition of a Ukrainian business tycoon to Chicago. Dmitry Firtash, who has been indicted in a Chicago racketeering case, has ties to both President Donald Trump and The Kremlin.

According to justice officials in Austria, Firtash's extradition to Chicago is on hold because Firtash is facing new organized crime charges in Spain.

The Chicago case alleges more than $18 million in payoffs for titanium contracts in India. The metal that was eventually to end up in brand-new 787 Dreamliner aircraft made by Chicago-based Boeing, considered a victim in the case.

READ: DMITRY FIRTASH INDICTMENT

He is rich and powerful enough in Ukraine to be known as an oligarch. In a Vienna courtroom, however, he is known as a defendant, fighting extradition to Chicago where he has been under the weight of a federal indictment since 2013.

Finally, on Tuesday, an Austrian appeals court ruled against Firtash and cleared the way for him to be sent to Chicago, subject to routine formal approval by Austria's justice minister.

Then, just after the clock started ticking toward his trip to O'Hare, time stood still-and remains so. With breathtaking speed, the Ukrainian oligarch was arrested while waiting for the elevator to leave court.

Austrian police took him into custody on an outstanding warrant from Spain that accuses him of money laundering and engaging in organized crime. He denies all the charges.

On Wednesday night, Firtash attorney Dan K. Webb, a former U.S. attorney in Chicago, said that the businessman remained behind bars in Vienna, Austria. "I was told earlier today that he is still in jail waiting for a bond hearing that will occur over the next day or so."

His release came Thursday morning. The Land Court of Vienna, having considered Spain's extradition request, released Firtash without additional bond money. He had previously posted bail totaling more than $150 million. However, it appears Mr. Firtash will be staying in Austria until the competing extradition requests are worked out, as he was required to surrender his foreign passport.

That arrest has complicated Firtash's extradition to Chicago. U.S. extradition approval by Austria's Justice Minister Wolfgang Brandstetter is now on ice. Brandstetter says he won't make a decision about the Chicago extradition until Austrian courts have dealt with the Spanish warrant.

It is the latest legal pothole for Firtash, who had business ties with Paul Manafort, who managed President Trump's campaign last year. The men faced a federal civil racketeering suit alleging a New York hotel they planned to build was a facade for money laundering. A U.S. federal judge dismissed the suit in 2014.

Firtash's attorneys say he will be cleared of all charges in Chicago and declined to comment on the newly-executed Spanish arrest warrant. His U.S. legal team says it is "disappointed" in the extradition decision and is prepared to fight the charges in Chicago.

A spokesman for the U.S. attorney here expresses thanks to the government of Austria for its close cooperation on law enforcement matters.

N.W.T. RCMP seek Canada-wide warrant for owner of Deepak International

 

Toronto businessman Deepak Kumar wanted on fraud charges related to million-dollar loan

RCMP are looking for Deepak Kumar, owner of Deepak International. He is wanted on fraud charges in relation to a million-dollar loan that allowed him to purchase two abandoned diamond cutting and polishing plants from the N.W.T. government.

RCMP are looking for Deepak Kumar, owner of Deepak International. He is wanted on fraud charges in relation to a million-dollar loan that allowed him to purchase two abandoned diamond cutting and polishing plants from the N.W.T. government.

RCMP are trying to track down the owner of Deepak International, who faces fraud charges in relation to a million-dollar loan that allowed him to purchase two abandoned diamond cutting and polishing plants from the Northwest Territories government.

Police allege Deepak Kumar misrepresented assets to secure the loan. He's been charged with fraud over $5,000, obtaining credit by fraud and creating false statements to obtain financing. Now RCMP are asking the N.W.T.'s public prosecution office to apply for a Canada-wide warrant for Kumar, who is believed to be outside the country.

RCMP would not say where they believe him to be, except that emails and information from other sources suggest he is not in Canada. The Canada-wide warrant needs to be issued by an N.W.T. Supreme Court judge before RCMP can start applying for an extradition order, which would force Kumar to return to Canada.

RCMP Cpl. Shawn King says Kumar has indicated he may come back willingly to face charges. King said he has personally had brief email contact with Kumar. "He was quite vague on the details about when he might be returning," said King.

RCMP investigate complaint

RCMP say their investigation began in 2015 as a result of a complaint from Callidus Capital Corp., a Toronto lender of last resort.

Deepak International said these steel shipping containers near the Yellowknife airport contained millions in new diamond cutting and polishing equipment. RCMP have not yet located the equipment put up as security for the loans. (CBC)

To secure the financing to purchase the diamond cutting plants, Deepak offered Callidus $10 million worth of diamond cutting and polishing equipment he said he had. He showed Callidus a bill of sale for the equipment, but never showed the firm the equipment itself.

Callidus has since won a $4.5 million judgment against Deepak, for not living up to the terms of the financing agreement. RCMP say they have not been able to locate the diamond cutting equipment put up as security for the loans.

Fugitive repatriated from US after almost 17 years in hiding there

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- A fugitive was repatriated back to Taiwan Wednesday after hiding in the United States for almost 17 years, becoming the first criminal sent back by U.S. authorities since the two countries severed diplomatic ties in 1979.

Ho Hsiu-chen was read her legal rights at the door of the plane that had carried her back from the United States, before she was handcuffed by Bureau of Investigation (BOI) agents at the Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport at about 8 a.m.

Ho remained silent and did not respond to reporters' questions as she was escorted away from the airport.

Ho was sentenced to 14 years in prison in 1999 for her role as an accessory to her husband, Hsieh Kuei-lin, a former chief of Gongguan Township in Miaoli County, in a corruption case.The wife fled Taiwan to avoid imprisonment, and a warrant for her arrest was issued in September 1999.

The husband, who was given a 14-year sentence for his involvement in a kickback scandal related to a road construction project, also fled overseas in 1999 but was repatriated back to Taiwan from Indonesia in 2006.

According to the BOI, Ho arrived in the United States on a tourist visa, and hid in Los Angeles.She got a student visa by enrolling in the University of the West, set up in Rosemead, California by the Taiwan-based Fo Guan Shan Buddhist group. She recently received her doctoral degree in religious studies from the university.

The BOI learned that her student visa expired in 2014, but she did not apply to extend her stay in the United States.The BOI said it then reported her to the U.S. immigration authorities for her illegal stay.

Ho was arrested and detained in November 2015. A U.S. immigration court later ruled that she be repatriated back to Taiwan. Chu Cheng-sheng, a senior officer at the BOI's international division, said the case marks the first time the bureau had worked with U.S. immigration and customs authorities to successfully repatriate criminals to Taiwan from the United States.

Chu, thanking the U.S. government, said the bureau hopes Taiwan fugitives hiding in the United States can be repatriated via such cooperation between the two sides.

There is no extradition agreement between Taiwan and the United States.

Many high-profile Taiwan fugitives have been hiding in the United States, including a former colonel, Liu Kuan-chun, of the National Security Bureau who has been wanted for his alleged involvement in a slush fund scandal.

Another fugitive, Wang You-theng, founder of the now collapsed Rebar Group, was killed in a car crash last month after hiding in the United States for almost a decade. Wang had been accused of embezzling huge sums of money from Rebar's subsidiaries.

Israelis in JP.Morgan hack case to be extradited to US

Gery Shalon, 32, and Ziv Orenstein, 41, among four indicted for scam that compromised data of millions of customers

Gery Shalon, suspected of being involved in several fraud schemes tied to the NYSE and a massive data breach at JPMorgan Chase & Co. seen at the Jerusalem Magistrates' Court, July 22, 2015.  (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Gery Shalon, suspected of being involved in several fraud schemes tied to the NYSE and a massive data breach at JPMorgan Chase & Co. seen at the Jerusalem Magistrates' Court, July 22, 2015. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

JERUSALEM — Israeli authorities have approved the extradition to the United States of two nationals indicted over a cyber attack against JPMorgan Chase, one of the largest computer frauds in history. Gery Shalon, 32, and 41-year-old Ziv Orenstein were arrested in Israellast July and will be extradited following a US request, the justice ministry said in a statement on Monday.

 

They risk lengthy prison sentences if convicted, it said, adding that both suspects had consented to the extradition. It did not say when this would take place.

Shalon and Orenstein were among four people indicted in a massive hacking scheme by a “diversified criminal conglomerate” that compromised data from millions of customers of JPMorgan Chase and other firms, US officials said in November.

Ziv Orenstein, right, suspected of being involved with several fraud schemes tied to the NYSE and a massive data breach at JPMorgan Chase & Co. seen at the Jerusalem Magistrates’ Court, July 22, 2015.  (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Ziv Orenstein, right, suspected of being involved with several fraud schemes tied to the NYSE and a massive data breach at JPMorgan Chase & Co. seen at the Jerusalem Magistrates’ Court, July 22, 2015. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The bank revealed in 2014 that a hack had compromised data on 76 million household customers and seven million businesses, including their names, email addresses and telephone numbers — the largest theft of data from a US financial institution.

The two Israelis and US citizen Joshua Samuel Aaron were charged with multiple counts of fraud, conspiracy and other charges related to the hack.

Around the same time Shalon and Orenstein were arrested in Israel, US officials detained Anthony Murgio, who was charged with operating an illegal money transfer service using the bitcoin virtual currency that helped launder the profits from the scheme.

Aaron, who is known to have ties to Russia, remains at large, according to officials in the United States.The indictments include some 30 criminal charges carrying penalties of between five and 20 years each.