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Dutch can extradite Russian ‘megahacker’ to US: court

A Dutch court ruled Tuesday that a Russian accused of one of the largest US corporate hacks of more than 160 million credit card details can be extradited to the US.

“The Dutch state may extradite Russian hacker Vladimir Drinkman to the United States,” The Hague district court said in a statement.

The ruling comes after Drinkman’s lawyer earlier this month made a last-ditch effort to avoid him being sent to New Jersey, arguing that he might be prosecuted for other crimes in other states, which would breach the Netherlands-US extradition agreement.

Drinkman, who is wanted along with four others for allegedly hacking computer networks belonging to some of the world’s largest payment companies, would prefer to be extradited to Russia, where his young daughter and ex-wife live.

The five suspects, four Russians and a Ukrainian, are accused of stealing credit and debit card numbers and other personal information from companies such as NASDAQ, Carrefour, JetBlue and selling them online.

Just three of the corporate victims have reported combined losses in excess of $300 million.

The defendants are Drinkman, Alexandr Kalinin, Roman Kotov and Dmitriy Smilianets, and Ukrainian Mikhail Rytikov.

Smilianets was arrested along with Drinkman in the Netherlands and extradited. The other three suspects are still at large.

US investigators have been on the trail of the hackers for at least four years with Kalinin and Drinkman having been identified as Hacker 1 and Hacker 2 in a 2009 indictment of Albert Gonzalez, who was subsequently convicted and sentenced to 20 years in prison for accessing the confidential data of Heartland Payment Systems and other corporations in what was, until then, the biggest case of its kind.

The pair were described as specialists in penetrating network security and gaining access to the systems of major corporations. Moscow-based Kotov was said to be the expert in mining the networks his accomplices had opened up.

This involved installing malicious code, or malware, on compromised systems, enabling the harvesting of user names and passwords, means of identification and bank card numbers.

The US investigators regard the estimate of 160 million numbers obtained by the group as conservative.

A stolen American credit card number and the details needed to use it were said to be worth 10 dollars, a Canadian one $15 and a European one $50 to the identity theft wholesalers who bought the data.

They would then sell them on to individuals who could encode the data onto blank plastic cards and use them to buy goods or make cash withdrawals.