Spain Arrests Russian Spam King at US Request, Allegedly Over Helping Trump Win Election
Pyotr Levashov, a Russian hacker, was arrested in Spain on an international computer crimes warrant issued by the United States. The St Petersburg resident was arrested in Barcelona over the weekend where he was on vacation with his wife. The Department of Justice had initially claimed the arrest was not related to national security issues. However, reports coming from Russia suggest that Levashov has been arrested in connection with the 2016 US Presidential Election.
Arrest of Russian "Peter of the North" could be linked to Trump's win
In an interview with the Russian media, Levashov’s wife, Maria Levashova, said that "the Spanish police burst into their rented apartment in the middle of the night, arrested her husband, and confiscated all their electronic devices," Crime Russia reported. She added that her husband told her the warrant was linked to Trump's victory in the elections, the Kommersant Newspaper reported (emphasis is ours):
“I asked for an order or some other paperwork but they told me they showed them to my husband. I spoke to my husband on the phone when he was taken to police station. He told me he was shown some document in Spanish with a low-res photo of him. They said something about a virus that my husband had allegedly created and that it has something to do with Trump winning the presidential elections,” Levashova said.
"The U.S. case remains under seal, so we have no information to provide at this time," a spokesman for the US Justice Department’s criminal division told Reuters. A spokesperson for Spain’s National Court said the arrest took place on Friday night in Barcelona and that Levashov remains in custody in Spain at this time. While there's no information about the status of his extradition to the US, the Russian embassy in Madrid said that the Spanish authorities notified the Russian embassy of Levashov's arrest on Friday.
Krebs on Security said that based on stories, Levashov appears to be the person behind the hacker moniker “Peter Severa”, who played a pivotal figure in many Russian-language cybercrime forums. "Severa was the moderator for the spam subsection of multiple online communities, and in this role served as the virtual linchpin connecting virus writers with huge spam networks - including some that Severa allegedly created and sold himself," the cybersecurity blog wrote.
The US government - not the current administration - had accused Russia of trying to influence the election outcome ahead of November 2016 vote. The Russian President has denied these accusations, however, security firms and the American intelligence agencies insist that the country tried to sway the outcome in favor of now-President Donald Trump by breaking into the servers of the Democratic National Committee and the email of Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman.
Severa has been listed among the top 10 spammers in the world as tracked by Spamhaus. If Pyotr Levashov is indeed Peter Severa (which roughly translates as Peter of the North), his arrest could prove to be significant to several Russian spam and computer crime investigations, regardless of his link to the US election meddling.