Seleznyov’s Guam hearing delayed as defence claims Maldives’ arrest was illegal

The lawyer of alleged Russian hacker Roman Seleznyov has alleged his client’s detention in the Maldives was illegal, calling for the termination of his case based on “outrageous governmental misconduct” by the United States.

“The U.S. agents disregarded the U.S. law which prohibits the execution of warrant of arrests on foreign soil, disregarded Maldives law which affords fundamental legal protections, and disregarded well-established principles of international law which prohibit government-sponsored abduction of non-combatants,” Defence Attorney Patrick Civille was quoted as saying by local media in Guam.

Seleznyov was taken to the US territory after being detained at the Maldives’ Ibrahim Nasir International Airport on July 5. Outraged Russian authorities have described his arrest as “kidnapping”.

A removal hearing scheduled in Guam today has been delayed while Guam Chief Judge Frances Tydingco Gatewood determines whether she has jurisdiction over the case.

Seleznyov’s attorneys are reported as saying their client was detained by US rather than Maldivian personnel, as well as questioning the validity of the Interpol red notice used to detain him, claiming the notice was only issued on the day of the arrest.

An initial US press release revealed no details of the location of the arrest, though it was clearly stated as having taken place on July 5. A subsequent statement by the US Attorney’s Office in Guam said that Seleznyov had been arrested in Guam on July 6.

Arrested by US personnel

Civille’s motion is reported to have argued that  his client was “in fact taken into custody by agents of the United States Secret Service while physically present in the Republic of the Maldives,” said Kuam News.

“While on foreign soil, Seleznev [sic] was detained, handcuffed and questioned by U.S. law enforcement agents who then quickly spirited Seleznev away from Maldives to Guam on a private jet chartered by the United States,” continued Civille.

“His arrest therefore occurred on foreign soil, not upon the territory of the United States, and thus his presence before this court has been procured in an unlawful manner.”

Assistant US Attorney Marivic David is reported to have argued that the Guam court’s role is simply to positively identify the suspect in order to issue an order for his removal to the Western District of Washington in the US where Seleznyov was indicted in March 2011.

In a statement provided for the District Court of Guam, Seleznyov has described his arrest by US personnel on July 5.

“One of the three Americans screamed loudly that he was with the United States Secret Service and that I was under arrest. When I asked why I was under arrest, a paper was aggressively dangled in front of my face,” Marianas Variety reported Seleznyov as saying.

“None of these individuals was a Maldives law enforcement agent as far as I could determine,” Seleznyov is quoted as saying.

While Russian media have also quoted eyewitnesses who reported non-Maldivians detaining the Seleznyov, President Abdulla Yameen has previously dismissed claims of a US Secret Service operation on Maldivian soil as baseless.

Strained relations

After a high-level government delegation met with Russian diplomats in an attempt to smooth relations, Home Minister Umar Naseer last week said that Maldivian authorities would have acted differently had they know the suspect was the son of a Russian MP.

“Had it been known that he was a high-profile person in Russia, we would have discussed with Russia. We would have talked and found out what they thought of the matter. We don’t want at all to do anything to displease Russia,” Naseer said on TVM’s Raajje Miadhu (Maldives Today) programme Thursday night (July 17).

Selezynov’s father Valery Seleznyov has called on Russian authorities to impose economic sanctions on the Maldives and reportedly offered US$50,000 for evidence proving his son was detained by US intelligence agents.

US officials in have maintained that Maldivian authorities acted under their own laws, expelling Seleznyov from the country before his subsequent arrest.

Seleznyov is accused of bank fraud, identity theft, and other cyber crimes. The US have described him as “one of the world’s most prolific traffickers of stolen financial information”.


No intention to “displease” Russia with Seleznyov expulsion, says home minister

The Maldivian government would have “acted differently” if the Home Ministry had been aware that an alleged hacker expelled on July 5 was the son of a Russian lawmaker, Home Minister Umar Naseer said on state broadcaster Television Maldives (TVM) last week.

“Had it been known that he was a high-profile person in Russia, we would have discussed with Russia. We would have talked and found out what they thought of the matter. We don’t want at all to do anything to displease Russia,” Naseer said on TVM’s Raajje Miadhu (Maldives Today) programme Thursday night (July 17).

Naseer said that the Home Ministry was only aware of information concerning the suspect’s alleged crimes, adding that the government had no wish to be caught between Russian-American rivalry.

The Russian Foreign Ministry had expressed outrage over the arrest of Roman Valerevich Seleznyov, 30, from the Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA) and called it a “kidnapping” by the U.S. Secret Service.

The Home Ministry however insisted that Selezynov – son of Russian parliamentarian Valery Seleznyov – was expelled in response to an Interpol red notice with American authorities informed upon his arrival in the Maldives.

The US embassy in Colombo backed the government’s stance with a spokesperson informing Maldivian media that an Interpol red notice had been issued following indictments relating to bank and computer fraud that affected thousands of American citizens.

“This was a law enforcement action, and was based solely on law enforcement considerations. The indictment in this case was returned on March 2011, and thus long predates any current issues involving Russia and the United States. It has nothing to do with any of those issues. Nor was this a ‘kidnapping’ or in any way illegal,” the spokesperson stated.

Seleznyov “was arrested following his expulsion from another country, acting under its own laws. He was advised of his rights and given consular notification. These actions also were in no way inconsistent with any treaty arrangements with Russia.”

While President Abdulla Yameen has dismissed allegations of a US Secret Service operation on Maldivian soil as baseless, Home Minister Naseer insisted in parliament last week that Selezynov was arrested lawfully “by Maldivian police”.


However, Russian media has reported an anonymous eyewitness at the airport as claiming that Selezynov was allegedly handcuffed and led away by “two white guys” before he was about to board a flight to Moscow.

“I can remember one very clearly, one was wearing a green T-shirt and jeans type pants. He cuffed him,” the eyewitness told the Voice of Russia radio station.

While Maldivian police were present, the eyewitness claimed “they were not engaging in anything, they were just behind him.”

Selezynov was taken to the VIP lounge where passengers departing on private jets are processed, the eyewitness explained.

His girlfriend, Anna Otisko, who was with him at the airport told Russian media at a televised press conference on July 11 that her partner was “grabbed by unknown men” at the airport.

Selezynov’s father has also called on Russian authorities to impose economic sanctions on the Maldives and reportedly offered US$50,000 for evidence proving his son was detained by American intelligence agents.

“No legal procedures involving local authorities required for extradition were observed,” the Russian Foreign Ministry contended in a statement.

“The Russian citizen was literally kidnapped, which is a flagrant violation of the laws of any civilised state as well as international law.”

Maldives Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon and Attorney General Mohamed Anil meanwhile flew to Sri Lanka last week to brief Russian diplomats regarding the incident.

The ministry said in a statement that “strong, mutually beneficial” relations with Russia would not be derailed due to the “isolated incident.”

Due process

The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has also accused the government of flouting due process in Seleznyov’s arrest.

In a statement, the party said that personnel of Maldivian security services must make arrests within Maldivian territory and a warrant from a Maldivian court must be obtained for such seize-and-arrest operations.

Further, the suspect should also be produced at the relevant court in Maldives prior to repatriation, the party said.

The MDP has also expressed concern the incident may have adverse effects on trade and tourism.

Russia currently ranks fifth in terms of the number of tourist arrivals to Maldives, with more than 33,000 tourist arrivals during the first five months of 2014.