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‘Virus Maker’ extradition blocked by Latvia

Alleged creator of Gozi virus stays in home country.

By Ben Sullivan

Latvia has resisted calls by the US to extradite a man alleged to have written a computer virus used to steal millions of dollars.

Latvian Deniss Calovskis was named by the US in January as one of the creators of the Gozi virus, but Latvian courts have now twice rejected US extradition requests whilst its foreign minister backs their stance.

Edgars Rinkevics, writing on the Latvian Foreign Ministry’s website, insisted he would not like to see Deniss Calovskis spend the rest of his life in an American jail.

Calovskis is one of three men accused of designing the Gozi virus, a Trojan used to steal data on more than a million infected computers, which was then used to plunder bank accounts.

US attorney Preet Bharara said that they ran a "modern-day bank robbery ring, that required neither a gun or a mask."

The US also named Romanian Mihai Ionut Paunescu and Russian Nikita Kuzmin as the remaining two co-creators of Gozi. Kuzmin was arrested in May 2011 and is already in jail in the US following separate hacking charges. Extradition proceedings against Paunescu are currently on hold.

On the Foreign Ministry’s website, Rinkevics said that the US sought a jail term for Calovskis which exceeded 60 years, an disproportionate sentence he thinks.

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"In my view, such a penalty is disproportionate to the amount, and so far no-one has been able to conclusively dispel my fears that it might be otherwise"

Furthermore, the foreign minister said that there were questions over whether any of the crimes Calovskis is alleged to have committed actually took place on US soil. Mr Rinkevics said that the trans-national nature of the crime makes it hard to prove Calovskis involvement.

Finally, said the minister, if Calovskis was found guilty there was no reason why he could not serve a sentence for his crimes in his native Latvia.

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