MOSCOW – Moscow on Tuesday accused Washington of abducting a Russian national after a man suspected of being one of the world’s most prolific traffickers of stolen credit card details was arrested in the Maldives.
The US Justice Department said on Monday that Roman Seleznev had been detained at the weekend. He was then transported to the American territory of Guam where he faces charges of distributing stolen credit card details.
The 30-year-old 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 the 2011 indictment.
In response, the Russian foreign ministry said Seleznev’s detention in Male, the capital of the Maldives, 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.
It referred to a number of earlier cases including the high-profile arrest of Viktor Bout convicted of arms trafficking by a US court.
The Russian foreign ministry said in the statement it expected Washington to provide Moscow with an “intelligible explanation of what has happened” and allow access to Seleznev.
Moscow also demanded that the Maldives government provide an explanation of their role.
“The position of the Maldivian authorities who despite existing international legal norms allowed the security service of another state to abduct a Russian national and take him outside the country cannot but cause indignation,” said the statement.
Earlier on Tuesday Russian media cited Bloomberg news agency as saying that Seleznev was the son of a Russian MP, Valery Seleznev.
The lawmaker, speaking to the Russian state news agency ITAR-TASS, said that claim was “some monstrous lie and provocation”. Repeated calls to Valery Seleznev went unanswered.
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.
He faces a separate criminal indictment in Nevada on racketeering charges.