Spain will extradite Russian citizen and accused hacker Peter Levashov to the United States, where he is charged with operating one of the world’s largest botnets, Kelihos.
On Tuesday, Spain’s high court decided to grant the American request and send Levashov, 36, to the U.S. after he was arrested in Barcelona while on vacation.
Operating with over 10,000 enslaved computers, the Kelihos botnet was online from 2010. The U.S. charges that the botnet’s consequences include mass password theft, spreading of malware, millions of spam emails and schemes to illegally profit off stocks in pump-and-dump schemes. From 5 percent to 10 percent of Kelihos victims reside in the United States, according to the Justice Department.
“The ability of botnets like Kelihos to be weaponized quickly for vast and varied types of harms is a dangerous and deep threat to all Americans, driving at the core of how we communicate, network, earn a living and live our everyday lives,” acting Assistant Attorney General Kenneth Blanco said in April when charges were announced.
Levashov, who denies all charges, faces a 52-year prison sentence in the United States. The Russian citizen has three days to appeal the extradition. He told the Spanish court that the U.S. would torture him for information because he worked for President Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party for the last decade.
“If I go to the U.S., I will die in a year. They want to get information of a military nature and about the United Russia party,” Russia’s RIA news agency reported he said. “I will be tortured, within a year I will be killed, or I will kill myself.”
Levashov’s first American indictment came over a decade ago on charges of email and wire fraud. In 2009, he was charged of operating the Storm botnet, a progenitor of Kelihos.
The question of how exactly Levashov’s trip to Barcelona was known to Americans a month in advance remains an open question that will haunt Russian cybercriminals who are wanted by U.S. law enforcment.
Alleged Russian hackers like Alexander Vinnik, Stanislav Lisov, Yevgeniy Nikulin and Yury Martyshev were all arrested outside of Russia in American operations.
Russia’s own attempt to extradite Levashov echoes similar courtroom battles being waged around Europe over Vinnik and Nikulin.