US congressmen are puzzled by the early release of the most wanted Russian hacker


Russian cybercriminal Alexei Burkov, who was sentenced to nine years in prison in the United States, served just over a year and was released early. Now some American politicians have a question why such loyalty was suddenly shown to the hacker, whose capture was once called an operation of “paramount importance”.

A native of St. Petersburg, Alexey Burkov (aka K0pa) was the head of a large CardPlanet card forum, through which the data of more than 150 thousand credit cards were sold. In addition, he founded the closed hacker forums DirectConnection and Mazafaka, which were attended by the most sought-after cybercriminals by law enforcement agencies.

In 2015, Burkov was arrested in Israel, after which he was extradited to the United States. The Russian authorities have been actively seeking his return to his homeland for four years and even tried to make an exchange, offering to extradite an Israeli citizen arrested earlier in exchange for Burkov. However, the exchange did not take place, and the cybercriminal was sentenced to nine years in prison in an American prison. However, a little over a year later, he was suddenly released.

K0pa’s authority in the Russian hacker community made him a well-connected man, and, according to American journalist Brian Krebs, the Kremlin could be worried that he knows too much. However, in 2019, the US Secret Service found no evidence of Burkov’s connection with the Russian government.

In August 2021, after serving a little more than a year, the Russian was released and returned to Russia. According to a recent letter signed by four members of the Republican Party and addressed to White House adviser Jake Sullivan, on August 25, 2021, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers took the hacker to the airport and put him on a plane to Moscow.

“The decision to release Burkov ahead of schedule raises questions, given what the US government went to to get him arrested,” the letter says.

The letter, signed by senior members of the House Committees on the judiciary, National Security, Intelligence and Foreign Affairs, requires to say why the Russian was released early and whether the United States received anything in return. The authors of the letter also requested a list of all Russian citizens convicted of crimes in the United States who have been released early since President Biden took office.

Burkov remained in the custody of either Israeli or American authorities for almost five years until his sentencing in 2020. At the time of his release, he had already been in prison for almost six years. So where did the rest of his years of imprisonment go?

It is possible that the hacker made some kind of deal to mitigate the sentence. On June 16, 2021, a “classified petition” was added to Burkov’s court record, followed by another classified document submitted a week before the deportation.

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