- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 23, 2016

A Russian national accused of hacking LinkedIn and other internet companies could manage to avoid facing federal charges in the United States pending the decision of a Prague court, Czech authorities indicated this week.

Yevgeniy Nikulin, 29, was arrested inside a Prague hotel on Oct. 5 after being sought by the FBI and Interpol in connection with a cybercrime spree whose victims included LinkedIn, Dropbox and Formspring. He was formally indicted by the Justice Department three weeks later and charged with multiple counts including computer hacking and aggravated identity theft.

The Czech justice ministry said Wednesday that both the U.S. and Russia are actively seeking the alleged hacker’s extradition. Their requests were received “virtually at the same time,” a representative told BBC, and will be each be reviewed internally before being referred to a Prague court for an official ruling.

If the court concludes that both requests are valid, then it’ll be up to Czech Justice Minister Robert Pelikán to decide whether to send Mr. Nikulin to the U.S. or Russia.

Russian and Czech media this week reported that a defense lawyer for Mr. Nikulin claimed that the U.S. is only seeking his client’s extradition to “take revenge” for Edward Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor who has managed to avoid standing trial for charges related to leaking a trove of secret NSA documents by being granted Russian asylum.

Russia doesn’t have an extradition treaty with the U.S., but could theoretically propose an exchange of sorts of the alleged LinkedIn hacker is sent home to Moscow.

After Mr. Nikulin’s arrest was announced last month, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova described the case as “politically motivated” and “the latest example of the U.S. law enforcement authorities hunting Russian citizens around the world.”

LinkedIn said previously that Mr. Nikulin’s arrest was related to a 2012 breach that resulted in more than 100 million users of the jobs site being forced to change their log-in credentials.

Separately, a court in Moscow this month agreed to blacklist LinkedIn throughout Russia after finding the website in violation of a previously unenforced law that requires internet companies that store the data of Russian citizens to physically do so within the confines of the country.

• Andrew Blake can be reached at ablake@washingtontimes.com.

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