US beats Russia in battle for extradition of suspected hacker from Czech Republic

Yevgeniy Nikulin, a Russian man accused by the US of hacking into file-hosting site Dropbox and social networks LinkedIn and Formspring in 2012-13, has been extradited to the US and is due to appear in court today for a detention hearing. Nikulin was the subject of competing claims from the US and Russia for his extradition from the Czech Republic, having been accused by Russia of the much less serious crime of involvement in a $2,000 electronic theft in 2009 (see previous blog).

It is the not the first time that Russia has lodged a competing extradition claim when one of its nationals is facing extradition. If convicted in the US, Nikulin could receive a custodial sentence of several decades.

Top Czech Republic court halts extradition of alleged Russian hacker

The Czech Republic’s Constitutional Court, its highest forum for constitutional matters, has halted the extradition of alleged Russian hacker Yevgeniy Nikulin to either the US or Russia until it rules on a complaint filed by his lawyers. The nature of the complaint has not been made public, but Mr Nikulin has no appeals left.

Mr Nikulin was arrested in the Czech Republic in 2016 and is accused by the US of hacking into file-hosting site Dropbox and social networks LinkedIn and Formspring in 2012-13, whereas Russia suspects him of involvement in a $2,000 electronic theft in 2009. He has argued that he would not receive a fair trial in the US.

The Czech Republic’s Minister of Justice Robert Pelikan, who is to decide between on the competing extradition requests after the courts ruled them both lawful, has said that he will base his decision on where the most serious crimes were committed. Mr Pelikan has said that the Czech Republic’s president Milos Zeman asked him to export Nikulin to Russia “repeatedly and vehemently”, but that he was not swayed by the request.

Czech Republic to extradite Russian hacker to wherever his most serious crimes were committed

The Czech Republic’s Minister of Justice Robert Pelikan, who is to decide between competing Russian and US extradition requests for alleged Russian hacker Yevgeny Nikulin, has said that he will base his decision on where the most serious crimes were committed. Speaking to Czech legislators, he also said he would take into account which request was made first.

Both of these factors appear to work in the favour of the US, which accuses Nikulin of more serious crimes and made its extradition request before Russia. The US accuses him of hacking into file-hosting site Dropbox and social networks LinkedIn and Formspring in 2012-13, whereas Russia suspects him of involvement in a $2,000 electronic theft in 2009. He has argued that he would not receive a fair trial in the US.

Mr Pelikan has said that the Czech Republic’s president Milos Zeman asked him to export Nikulin to Russia “repeatedly and vehemently”, but that he was not swayed by the request.

Czech court orders release of man wanted by Turkey

We previously reported that Turkish politician Salih Muslim had been arrested in the Czech Republic on an Interpol Red Notice issued by Turkey (see previous blog). A Czech court has now ruled that he should be released. Turkey intends to make a formal request for his extradition, and accuses him of disrupting the state and aggravated murder. He was formerly co-chairman of the Syrian-Kurdish Democratic Union Party, which Turkey accuses of being a terrorist organisation.

Turkey will request extradition of former politician Salih Muslim from the Czech Republic

Turkey is seeking the extradition of Salih Muslim from the Czech Republic, where he was arrested on an Interpol Red Notice. He is the former co-chairman of the Syrian-Kurdish Democratic Union Party, which Turkey accuses of being a terrorist organisation linked to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, which itself is listed as a terrorist organisation by the EU.

Konecny loses appeal against extradition to the Czech Republic

Mr Konecny appealed against his extradition from the UK to the Czech Republic on a conviction EAW.  He had been convicted in his absence in 2008 of three fraud offences and sentenced to 8 years’ imprisonment. The Administrative Court dismissed his appeal, in Konecny v District Court Czech Republic [2017] EWHC 2360 (Admin).

Passage of time

It was agreed that Mr Konency was not a fugitive and was unaware of his conviction and sentence in the Czech Republic until his arrest in 2017.  He submitted that the ‘passage of time’ the court should consider under s14(b) EA 2003 started running from the date of the commission of the first offence, namely November 2004.  He also submitted that extradition would be unjust due to passage of time because it appeared that the Czech authorities had lost documents that demonstrated his innocence.

The court held that the operative date was when the appellant became unlawfully at large, which was an objective state to which his knowledge was irrelevant: “Accordingly, in my judgment, the fact that the Appellant was unaware of his conviction and sentence in the Czech Republic until 2017 is irrelevant to the question of when he became unlawfully at large. In accordance with Wiszniewski he became unlawfully at large upon the date when a lawful sentence was imposed upon him in respect of his convictions for fraud. The date when that sentence was imposed was 12 May 2008.

The court also held that extradition would not be unjust because “I am entitled to infer and do infer that the evidence presented to the court justified the convictions. Upon his return to the Czech Republic the Appellant can exercise his right to have a re-trial if so advised and I must assume or infer that such a trial will be fair within Article 6 ECHR. That being so the production of the Appellant’s documents will, if he is correct, result in his acquittal. If they are not adduced in evidence the reason for that state of affairs will be examined critically and the Appellant’s right to a fair trial respected.”

Neither did the effects of extradition reach the high bar necessary to show oppression.  The effects of delay were best dealt with under Article 8.

Article 8 ECHR

The District Judge was entitled to treat the Czech authorities’ description of Mr Konecny as a “particularly dangerous recidivist” as a factor in favour of extradition despite his good character and employment in the UK since 2007.  The lengthy sentence and right to a retrial also favoured extradition.  The delays in issuing the EAW in the Czech Republic (2013) and certifying it in the UK (2017) were unexplained, troubling and “a powerful factor militating against extradition” but ultimately it could not be said that the District Judge was wrong to find that his Article 8 rights to a private and family life did not outweigh the public interest in extradition.