MALE, Maldives – The Maldives has said it acted alone to expel a Russian national suspected by the US of being one of the world’s most prolific traffickers of stolen credit cards.
President Abdulla Yameen denied a claim by Moscow that the United States had abducted Roman Seleznev from the Maldives and taken him to the American territory of Guam.
Yameen told reporters that Maldives police, acting on an Interpol arrest warrant, had moved against 30-year-old Seleznev at the weekend.
“No outsider came here to conduct an operation,” Yameen said in the capital Male on Wednesday night.
“No officials from another country can come here to arrest anyone.
“The government has the necessary documentation to prove it,” he said, adding that he has asked his foreign minister to explain the situation to her Russian counterpart.
The US Justice Department said on Monday that Seleznev was arrested and taken to Guam, although the details of his seizure were not known.
He is charged with hacking into retail computer systems and installing malicious software to steal credit card numbers in a scheme that operated between October 2009 and February 2011.
Seleznev and his partners stole over 200,000 credit card numbers, with bank losses from the scheme estimated at over $1.1 million (800,000 euros), according to a 2011 indictment.
The Russian foreign ministry said Seleznev’s detention was a “hostile step”, adding that Russian diplomatic missions had not been notified of his arrest.
“It is not the first time that the US side resorts to the de facto abduction of a Russian national ignoring the bilateral 1999 treaty on mutual legal assistance,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.
The Maldivian home ministry in a brief statement said the suspect was “sent from the Maldives” in response to an Interpol red notice for his arrest.
“Since the Maldives is a member state of Interpol… the Maldives attaches the utmost importance to the ‘red notices’ issued by the organization,” it said.
If convicted, the Russian could face up to 30 years in prison on bank fraud charges and additional jail time for the other charges, as well as hefty fines.