On Monday, Nov. 11, alleged cyber-criminal Alexei Burkov, a Russian national, was extradited to the United States from Israel following a four-year legal battle.
According to an unsealed indictment, Burkov, who allegedly operated a website called cardplanet.cc, is charged with wire fraud and access device fraud, as well as conspiracy to commit wire fraud, access device fraud, computer intrusions, identity theft, and money laundering.U.S. prosecutors said the site sold debit and credit card numbers, many from U.S. citizens.“The stolen credit card data from more than 150,000 compromised payment cards was allegedly sold on Burkov’s site and has resulted in over $20 million in fraudulent purchases made on U.S. credit cards,” the Justice Department said in a Nov. 12 news release.
Russia’s embassy in the U.S. released a note protesting “Washington’s hunt for our fellow citizens around the world” and demanding that “U.S. authorities strictly comply with existing bilateral obligations."
The Russian state TV channel Rossiya 1 claimed that Burkov’s extradition had been a “forgone conclusion.”
Russian Ambassador to Israel Anatoly Viktorov called Israel’s decision to extradite Burkov “entirely unlawful,” claiming it was in line with a long-term U.S. strategy of “spreading their jurisdiction all over the world.”
Russia is among a number of countries that do not allow their citizens to be extradited.
However, Edward Swain, a professor of international law at George Washington University who served as a counselor on international law at the U.S. State Department, told Polygraph.info the fact that Russia forbids its citizens from being extradited “does not constrain other states.”
Swain added that according to international law, the U.S.-Israeli extradition treaty would “override any domestic law,” be it U.S. Israeli or Russian.
Any bilateral treaties between Russia and Israel, he said, could include such limitations “that reflect both general international norms and domestic law” – for example, no extradition of nationals – adding that Israeli courts “would have been interested in any international-law basis for refusing” the extradition request.
Russian media have inconsistently covered the Burkov case. Russian outlets initially claimed Burkov had been arrested in Israel in December of 2015 under a U.S. warrant and not an INTERPOL red notice, although subsequent Russian state media reports noted that an international arrest warrant was issued.
Accusations of lawlessness, inhumane prison conditions and chronic health issues in the Burkov case mirror similar statements made in connection with convicted foreign agent Maria Butina.
Russian state media have strongly criticized the extradition of other Russian citizens to the U.S., with Dmitry Kiselyov, head of the Rossiya Segodnya state information agency and a Rossiya 1 host, calling Konstantin Yaroshenko, a Russian pilot who was sentenced to prison for conspiracy to commit drug trafficking in 2011, a “hostage.”
The Russian Foreign Ministry demanded the release of convicted Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, the so-called “Merchant of Death,” sentenced to 25 years in prison by a U.S. court following his 2011 extradition from Thailand.
Russia’s Foreign Ministry has called Bout’s arrest and extradition to the U.S. illegal.