RIGA – Latvia agreed Tuesday to extradite a programmer to the United States to stand trial for his alleged role in a global cyber theft ring that broke into a million computers.
Latvian Deniss Calovskis, 27, and two other Europeans are suspected notably of hacking into computers at the US space agency NASA and of stealing online banking credentials for profit.
Calovskis’s lawyers said they would appeal the government’s decision to the European Court of Human Rights, claiming their client would not receive a fair trial in the US.
Around 30 friends and family members demonstrated outside the cabinet building as the ministers voted on the extradition request calling for Calovskis to be tried in Latvia, if at all.
Fellow suspects, Russian Nikita Kuzmin and Romanian Mihai Ionut Paunescu, are already in custody.
The trio are accused of using malicious computer code or malware, dubbed the “Gozi Virus”, to infiltrate computers across Europe and the US.
They caused “millions in losses by, among other things, stealing online banking credentials”, according to the US federal prosecutor’s office.
Calovskis, alias “Miami”, was arrested in Latvia in November 2012 and charged with writing some of the computer code in the Gozi Virus.
He is suspected of using his expertise in programming to create “web injects”, a code that alters how banking websites appear on infected computers, prompting victims to reveal personal information.
Prosecutors say the sophisticated scam unfolded between 2005 and March 2012, adding that the virus was “virtually undetectable in the computers it infected”.
Financial losses from the virus stand “at a minimum, millions of dollars”, according to the indictment.