Arrested Russian’s wife denies US charge he is global hacking mastermind

ST PETERSBURG, Russia: The wife of an alleged Russian hacker facing extradition from Spain to the United States has said he is being held in solitary confinement and that he denies the accusation that he masterminded one of the world’s biggest spam networks.
Peter Levashov was arrested while on holiday in Barcelona in April, and US prosecutors later charged him with hacking offences, saying he had operated a network of tens of thousands of infected computers used by cyber criminals.
The prosecutors are seeking a 52-year jail sentence, according to extradition documents, and a hearing in the case is expected in Madrid on Wednesday.
Levashov, who has long been considered the likely identity of an online persona known as Peter Severa, spent years listed among the world’s 10 most prolific spammers, according to spam-tracking group Spamhaus.
His case provides a rare insight into US efforts to track down and prosecute international cyber criminals. It comes at a time when Russian hackers are under intense scrutiny after US intelligence officials accused Moscow of hacking last year’s US presidential election in Donald Trump’s favour, something Russia denies.
The suspect’s wife, Maria Levashova, said her husband denied the accusations, but had still not seen the full charges. She also accused Spanish authorities of mistreating him at the behest of US intelligence officials.
“It is clear that the actions of the Spanish and American authorities are intended to get my husband into such a state that he is prepared to sign anything, or that he simply won’t make it to court,” she said tearfully.
Speaking to this agency in a St Petersburg cafe, she said he was being held in solitary confinement and frequently moved between prisons without notice, meaning she no longer knew where he was.
Attempts to appeal his extradition had been blocked, she said. He had not been allowed private correspondence with his lawyer, and multiple written requests to see the Russian consulate had been ignored or torn up by Spanish prison guards.
An official at the Spanish Penitentiary Secretariat declined to confirm that Levashov was in custody, but denied any prisoners in Spain were mistreated and said it was “impossible” for a prisoner to be denied confidential access to their lawyer.
The FBI declined to comment on Levashova’s allegations, referring questions to the US Department of Justice, which did not respond to a request for comment. The Russian Foreign Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment. — Reuters