The Czech Republic has extradited suspected hacker Yevgeniy Nikulin to face charges in San Francisco federal court, ending a bilateral custody battle fought over the last 18 months between the U.S. and his native Russia.
Mr. Nikulin was sent to the U.S. overnight, Czech Justice Ministry spokeswoman Tereza Schejbalova said Friday, nearly 18 months after he was apprehended in Prague pursuant to an international arrest warrant issued in connection with allegedly hacking U.S. internet companies LinkedIn, Dropbox and Formspring in 2012.
The Department of Justice unsealed a nine-count indictment against Mr. Nikulin in October 2016 and subsequently sought his extradition. Russia filed charges and requested custody as well, however, and a Czech court concluded last year that both pleas were proper, spurring the stalemate resolved with Friday’s announcement.
Czech Justice Minister Robert Pelikan ultimately agreed to send Mr. Nikulin to the U.S. rather than Russia, minutes after the country’s Constitutional Court announced that it had rejected an appeal brought on the accused hacker’s behalf challenging the American request, The Associated Press reported Friday.
Mr. Nikulin, 30, made his initial appearance in court Friday morning and pleaded not guilty to all counts, The San Francisco Chronicle reported.
“The FBI will not allow international cyber criminals to operate with impunity,” FBI Special Agent in Charge John F. Bennett said in a statement. “Nikulin allegedly targeted three Bay Area companies through cyber-attacks, and will now face prosecution in the United States.”
The Russian Embassy in Prague called the decision “deeply disappointing,” state-owned media reported.
“Prague once again preferred the notorious allied solidarity without taking into account all the factors and circumstances of this case,” said Alexei Kolmakov, the embassy’s press secretary, according to the AP’s translation.
The Department of Justice did not immediately return an email seeking comment.
Mr. Nikulin previously denied the charges, and both his attorney and Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova have labeled the U.S. prosecution as politically motivated.
The U.S. lacks an extradition agreement with Russia, and American authorities have repeatedly relied on foreign counterparts to capture suspected Russian criminals traveling abroad.