RIGA - Latvian cyber-crime suspect Deniss Calovskis is innocent until proven guilty, but the charges against him are very serious, U.S. Ambassador to Latvia Mark Pekala said, commenting on the so-called ‘Riga hacker affair,’ reports LETA.
“Taking into account his possible participation in these crimes, Calovskis has been charged with fraud and large scale cyber-theft with the aim of obtaining bank account information, by the United States. The virus which was created by Calovskis and his accomplices infected over a million computers throughout the world, and 40,000 computers in the U.S., causing tens of millions [of dollars] in damages for companies, state institutions and private individuals,” the ambassador explains.
Pekala admitted that the U.S. is clearly interested in the charges against Calovskis, which are inside U.S. jurisdiction.
“Our banks and our residents were victims of this crime. Both Latvian and U.S. law have been taken into account in this case. In the near future, the Cabinet of Ministers will decide whether to extradite Calovskis to the U.S. to face prosecution. If he is extradited, he will face court proceedings in the U.S. according to U.S. laws and processes,” the ambassador said.
Pekala added that since 2006, the United States has extradited three people to Latvia, while in 2012 a Latvian citizen was extradited to the United States.
The Latvian Supreme Court ruled on Jan. 31 that Calovskis, accused by the United States of cyber-theft, should be extradited to the U.S. for prosecution. The ruling cannot be appealed, but the final decision on Calovskis’
extradition is to be made by the Cabinet of Ministers. If the government decides to extradite Calovskis, he could face a maximum sentence of 60 years in prison in the United States.
Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics previously said that he believes that there is no reason for Latvia to extradite Calovskis. The minister believes that extradition of Latvian citizens to other countries should only be considered if there are sufficient reasons justifying this.
U.S. law enforcement agencies have announced charges against three alleged East European cyber thieves accused of stealing banking information from computers across Europe and the United States, including Calovskis.
The alleged international cyber criminals were responsible for creating and distributing a computer virus that infected over one million computers - at least 40,000 of which were in the United States - and caused millions of dollars in losses by, among other things, stealing online banking credentials, the federal prosecutor’s office in Manhattan said.
The defendants allegedly used a malicious computer code, or malware, dubbed the ‘Gozi Virus’ to hack into bank accounts and “steal millions of dollars,” stated the indictment against Calovskis, also known as ‘Miami,’ who was arrested in Latvia.
Prosecutors say the scam unfolded between 2005 and March 2012 and that the virus was “virtually undetectable in the computers it infected.” First, it was implanted in computers across Europe “on a vast scale,” then around 2010 it spread to the United States, the Calovskis indictment said.
Calovskis has turned to the European Court of Human Rights with a petition against the extradition request, said attorney Saulvedis Varpins.
The attorney said that according to announcements made by U.S. officials in the past, cyber-crimes in the country have been put on an equal level with terrorism. In such cases, when national security is threatened, the U.S. can engage in physical and psychological torture against suspects in the name of national security.Varpins said that in this case, Calovskis is being accused of participating in the creation of a computer virus, which leads to concern that the U.S. law enforcement institutions could torture him to obtain more information on possible accomplices.
Taking into account all of the above, Latvia must first receive guarantees from the United States that Calovskis will not be physically or psychologically influenced, the attorney said, adding that no such guarantee has been received from the United States.