A Russian computer hacker jailed last year by the United States for facilitating a $20 million credit card fraud was released to Russia on Tuesday, according to reports.
Aleksey Burkov, who ran a sophisticated clearinghouse for international cybercriminals, pleaded guilty to fraud, money laundering, and other charges in US District Court in Alexandria, Virginia, in May 2020. He was sentenced to nine years in prison.
The charges against Burkov were initially filed in 2015. He was then arrested in Israel and spent several years in custody while the Russian government fought his extradition to the US and filed its own extradition request.
Israel eventually extradited Burkov to the US in November 2019 over Russia’s objections.
On Tuesday, after spending over a year in an American jail, he was sent back to Russia, according to Kan news. Burkov had previously told the network he is willing to stand trial in his home country.
The Russian TASS news agency reported that Burkov was arrested upon landing at Moscow’s airport on Tuesday.
The US and Russia don’t have an official extradition treaty and it was unclear why he may have been released to Moscow.
Last year, Israeli officials suggested Russia sought Burkov’s release by offering an exchange for Naama Issachar, a 26-year-old Israeli woman who received a seven-year prison sentence in Moscow on marijuana charges.
She was released in January 2020 after serving 10 months, receiving a pardon from Russian President Vladimir Putin roughly a week after Burkov pleaded guilty in the US.
The harsh sentence for what is widely considered a minor offense was seen as a Russian attempt to use her to secure Burkov’s release.
Last year in court Burkov apologized for his conduct. “I recognize my guilt and I reconsider my life,” he said through an interpreter.