Latvia has set itself on a collision course with America after the tiny nation's foreign minister said he did not want the alleged creator of the notorious Gozi trojan extradited to face justice in the US.
Writing on the Latvian Foreign Ministry's website, Edgars Rinkēvičs insisted he would not like to see Dennis Calovskis spend the rest of his life in an American jail. The 27-year-old Latvian programmer is accused of designing the Gozi trojan, a Trojan which has stolen millions from bank accounts across the world.
However, Latvian courts have knocked back Calovskis' extradition appeal for a second time, a decision that could potentially put politicians and judges at loggerheads. Rinkēvičs wanted to see Latvia change its whole extradition treaty with the US, a call rejected by judges.
In his article, which we have run through Google Translate and edited slightly for the sake of clarity, the Latvian foreign minister wrote:
I am not entitled to express an opinion as to whether the person has or has not violated the law. That is explored by purely legal means. However, I do have my own reasons to vote against the extradition of Dennis Calovskis for trial in the United States.
Rinkēvičs warned that the Latvian suspect could face more than 60 years in prison, a "disproportionate" sentence that possibly infringed the "high standards" of human rights that Latvia has promised to stick to as a member of the European Union.
He said that the programmer should face justice in Latvia, because it was far from clear that he actually committed a crime on American soil. The case would be a good chance for the tiny nation's cybercops to "grow their own skills and expertise in investigating sophisticated breaches of laws".
The Latvian foreign minister also drew attention to the case of Gary McKinnon, the Briton who became famous after the American authorities sought his prosecution for hacking into NASA and other US government machines in search of UFO information.
McKinnon avoided extradition (after an extremely protracted legal struggle) and also any subsequent prosecution in the UK. He was never accused of attempting to gain financially from his actions, and his defence was successful in large part due to the fact that he suffered from Asperger's Syndrome and was deemed medically unfit to be extradited, imprisoned and tried in the US.
In January Preet Bharara, United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, said Calovskis was a "top international criminal" whose nickname is "Miami". She alleged that Calovskis, along with Russian Nikita Kuzmin and Romanian Mihai Paunescu, designed Gozi and used it to infect least a million computers around the world, resulting in the loss of "tens of millions of dollars from bank accounts of individuals and businesses". ®