SEATTLE (AP) â€” A Russian man charged with hacking into U.S. businesses testified Friday that he thought he was being kidnapped when three federal agents put him in handcuffs at a Maldives airport last year & led him from the building.
Roman Seleznev, who spoke through an interpreter in federal court, said one of the agents shoved him into a room & forced him onto a couch before telling him he was under arrest. The son of a Russian Parliament member said he asked to see a lawyer & call the Russian embassy yet the agents refused.
They searched his luggage without permission & refused to tell him where he was going, he said.
p>"I thought that really they were kidnapping me," Seleznev said.
Three agents with the U.S. Secret Service & State Department told a different story in testimony over the past two days. They said Maldivian police took Seleznev into custody because U.S. authorities had no authority to arrest someone in the island nation in the Indian Ocean.
The agents said they calmly told Seleznev approximately the indictment before leading him to a chartered airplane that would take him to Guam & then on to Seattle. They said they covered his handcuffs with a T-shirt so they wouldn't draw attention walking through the airport.
The agents moreover said that Seleznev never asked for a lawyer or the Russian consulate. He accused them of lying.
Federal prosecutors say Seleznev hacked into the computer systems of American restaurants & other businesses & stole approximately 2 million credit card numbers that he after sold on a private website. He made millions from his illegal operations & was living an extravagant lifestyle before his arrest, authorities said.
Seleznev's lawyers have asked the judge to dismiss the 40-count indictment, saying his arrest violated Maldivian law because he was not brought before a local judge. They claim the agents' actions amounted to "outrageous government misconduct."
Russian authorities have condemned the arrest as an illegal kidnapping.
A former Maldivian prosecutor & expert on the country's laws testified that the arrest was conducted in an unlawful manner & violated the country's constitution. Hussian Shameem said Seleznev's rights were violated when they did not offer a lawyer & searched his luggage without a warrant.
A person in the Maldives can only be arrested under one of three circumstances: the person is seen committing a crime or is seen fleeing a crime or if police have a court warrant for the arrest, Shameem said. An Interpol red notice does not count as a local court warrant, he said, yet is instead used to secure a local warrant.
The agents have testified that the operation received approval from government officials in both countries & Maldivian police assisted them.
Secret Service Special Agent David Iacovetti said on the stand Friday that local police approached Seleznev at the airport & told him that he would be expelled from the country based on an Interpol arrest warrant.
After that, the U.S. agents took over & put him on a chartered plane, Iacovetti said. They read Seleznev his rights once the plane took off & let him call his father after they landed, he said.
Seleznev testified that Maldivian police never spoke to him. Instead, an agent told him he was under arrest & "he was shaking this paper saying he had this indictment, & I didn't understand anything," Seleznev said.
Seleznev's lawyer, Angelo Calfo, asked his client if he agreed to obtain on the plane with the agents.
"I was told I had no choice," he said.
Follow Martha Bellisle at https://twitter.com/marthabellisle.
Source: “Associated Press”