Kremlin assists to extradite Dmitry Zubakha, who was arrested in Cyprus at the request of the FBI, to the Russian Federation.
On 13 April hacker Dmitry Zubakha was extradited from Cyprus to Moscow. U.S. police authorities also put forward their claims for his extradition, but the island's government chose Russia. After the young man is successfully back to Moscow, his direct employer Igor Ashmanov, who heads of the pro-Kremlin Internet company Ashmanov and partners, reveals the details of how he managed to defend the gifted young employee from the "evil Americans". However, according to Rumafia sources, he had no role what so ever in helping Zubakha escape the FBI. It was the Kremlin that ensured the return of its hacker-on-staff back to Russia.
Why was there so much fuss around the 25-year-old Zubakha? According to a source in the Russian government, despite his young age Zubakha for some time worked for the Special Communication and Information Department (Spetssvyaz) at the Federal Security Service. Then Dmitry, who no longer was Spetssvyaz employee but became a freelancer, turned into a pro-Kremlin hacker. According to a Rumafia source, the correspondence of some opposition members became publicly available on the Internet after Zubakha hacked into their e-mail accounts. Instructed by the Kremlin, he also sent out junk mail and performed other minor cyber attacks on the web. Not surprisingly, in January 2012 Zubakha was hired by Ashmanov and partners. It is not quite clear whether he was just a regular employee or he was seconded from Special Communication Department. Ashmanov and partners for a long time has been engaged in implementing massive Kremlin projects that concerned the Internet. At some point of time Igor Ashmanov was taking an active part in the development of the National search engine devised by Vladislav Surkov that would allow to censor the Internet and to replace Google, if the decision to ban it in the country was to be made. Ashmanov's company constantly receives profitable contracts from the government. In particular, it created the website takzdorovo.ru. Ashmanov and partners owns Novoteka, an internet web-site used to boost the number of visitors for many Russian web-sites and other related things.
After less than six months of working in his new position, in June 2012 Zubakha went to Cyprus on vacation. Local authorities arrested him immediately upon his arrival in Paphos. It was the FBI who warned Cyprus authorities about the arrival of Zubakha and informed them that Dmitry was wanted by several law enforcement agencies, including Interpol. It is clear that FBI drew its attention to the young man mostly due to his work at Special Communication Department and his role as a pro-Kremlin hacker. However, this was not what they officially reported as claims.
Dmitry was accused in absentia of cyber attacks, among which there were ones committed in June 2008 targeted at Amazon online store, Priceline.com and auction company eBay, as well as of credit card holders personal data theft in 2009.
It is worth noting that employees of Spetssvyaz formerly known as FAPSI often combined serving the government with other lucrative Internet activities. For instance, in 2001 on the request of France Cyprus authorities arrested a FAPSI officer Andrey Golov. His agency seconded him to work in Unioncard, where he stole the data of more than 100 million cardholders of world banking systems, after which a total of $ 2 million was stolen from their accounts. The arrest took place with the participation of the FBI officers who immediately came to Cyprus and had a very long conversation with Golov. As a result, he was extradited to France, where he was convicted of stealing data of only eight card holders, all of whom were citizens of France, and after serving a short sentence, he returned to Russia.
In Zubakha's case events unfolded according to a similar scenario. In August 2012 four U.S. agents came to Cyprus where they had a long conversation with Dmitry. Then the extradition request was filed and Cypriot court began examining it.
According to Ashmanov's point of view (http://roem.ru/2013/04/12/zubakha120413/), then he decided to take every effort to save his negligent employee and protect him from the Americans. They got Viktor Bout, but that's all they will get, he thought. Pursuing his goal, Ashmanov hired lawyers who successfully fought back U.S. law enforcers in Cyprus, and then "great assistance" was rendered by the Russian Federation Presidential administration and the General Prosecutor's Office.
According to a source in the government, in fact Ashmanov's role in the story is close to nothing. Initially, Russian authorities believed that Cyprus, which has large debts to Russia, will not play any complex political games and will either refuse U.S. authorities in extradition or simply deport Zubakha to Russia. However, in autumn it became clear that Cyprus, which, as it turned out, already apprehended the crisis, was not going to “pay off the debts” and that Zubakha was on the verge of being extradited to the United States. At that point Russian law enforcers conducted an unprecedentedly quick operation which could literally make it into textbooks for police officers on how to do you work and not drag it out by means of lengthy administrative procedures.
On Wednesday, Presidential administration received an order from the Ministry of the Interior to initiate a criminal case against Zubakha. On Thursday police detained his friend, also a hacker. On the same day, he admitted that together with Zubakha they got access to bank payment systems and stole 6 million rubles. Investigators initiated a criminal case. On Friday Zubakha was charged in absentia with theft, under article 158 of the Criminal Code. On the same day he was put on the federal wanted list, and the investigators appealed to the court to issue an arrest in absentia warrant that is necessary to put a person on the international wanted list. On Monday it took the court only half an hour to make a ruling for Dmitry to be taken under custody and then the information about his case was sent to Interpol. On Tuesday the Prosecutor General's Office sent extradition documents to Cyprus.
All in all the “rescue operation” took less than a week. As a result, in January 2013 a Cyprus court satisfied the U.S. request, and, a month later, it satisfied a similar request from Russia. The final decision as to which of the two countries to send Zubakha to was to be made by the country's Minister of Justice. And precisely on that stage of the process the notorious financial crisis broke out in Cyprus.
Ashmanov claims that during the negotiations the Cyprus held with Russia concerning financial assistance one of the items on the agenda was Zubakha's case and, Ashmanov says, it was “18th or 28th on the list”. However, a source in the government said that the hacker's role in these negotiations is significantly underestimated. Cypriot authorities constantly hinted at the need for “mutually beneficial cooperation between law enforcement agencies of the two countries”. And they did it for a reason. After the Cyprus delegation left Russia, it was reported that the country's debt had been prolonged, and the position of Moscow on the idea of withdrawing funds from accounts of Russian citizens and companies opened on the island, became less strict.
After a time period necessary for keeping up appearances, the Cypriot authorities extradited Zubakha to Russia. Now he is in custody, but there is no doubt that this will not last long.