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German Supreme Court Block extradition of World’s No.2 most wanted hacker to United States.
Germany’s highest court has blocked the extradition of Ercan Findikoglu, accused of having stolen over $60 million in a number of massive global card heists to the United States. Ercan appeared in the FBI’s most wanted cyber criminals list at number two.
Ercan Findikoglu, 33, had been arrested by the German Police on a international warrant at Frankfurt Airport in December 2013. In a extradition case spanning 6 months, the lower court decided to permit the police to extradite Ercan to United States. Extradition to United States would have meant that Ercan would have had to spend 250 years behind bars if proven guilty, so he appealed to the Bundesverfassungsgericht, the German supreme federal court. It is pertinent to note that Ercan would be spending a possible 15 years maximum sentence under the German property related crimes laws, under which he has been held in Germany.
The Bundesverfassungsgericht acting on his plea, ruled that Ercan should not be extradited to United States. In its ruling announced late in November, the court’s three judges criticized the lower court for failing to obtain assurances from the United States that Findikoglu would not receive a disproportionate sentence.
The Charges against Ercan
Ercan Findikoglu has been accused of participating in several cyber criminal operations like hacking EnStage and ElectraCard, both payment card processors which are based in India. Ercan and his team of cyber criminals managed to doctor the prepaid debit cards and remove the withdrawal limits. These cards were then distributed to his henchmen around the globe along with stolen pin to orchestrate a coordinated withdrawing spree. The withdrawals which were spread to the length and breadth of the globe were so huge that Ercan’s henchmen are believed to have netted $45 million through 140 ATMs in New York alone.
Before embarking on this huge cyber crime caper, Ercan is alleged to have run a similar operation involving payment cards from the National Bank of Ras Al-Khaima (RAKBANK), UAE, stolen in the ElectraCard hack. This operation seems to be practice run before the bigger and more global EnStage hack and netted Ercan and his bunch of cyber criminals $5 million in December 2012.
The group then targeted the Bank of Muscat, Oman, via its partner EnStage and allegedly stole an epic $40 million, with 36,000 ATM transactions carried out in the space of 10 hours in February of last year.
Ercan’s gang members who include low level carders and cashers have been brought to justice. The crew which took part in the $45 million New York ATM withdrawal spree is already behind bars so is a German mother-and-son team given over four years for nabbing 168,000 Euros from ATMs in Dusseldorf.
FBI had put up a most wanted bulletin against Ercan far back in 2008 and he now figures at number two in the FBI list of most wanted criminals. FBI had conducted a operation against the hacker’s couriers way back in 2011 and managed to get damning evidence against Ercan. Codenamed “Virtual Earthquake,” the sting led to the discovery of more than 1 million people’s credit card information in Ercan’s possession.
However German Bundesverfassungsgericht ruling seems to be big disaster for both FBI and the NSA and for US Foreign office. The NSA is a partner with the German security agency Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz (BfV) in with mass wire-tap program and the FBI regularly takes part in EU based operations with the help of German authorities.