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Estonian government renews decision to extradite crypto traders to US

U.S. and Estonian flags.
U.S. and Estonian flags. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

The Estonian government has decided once again to extradite crypto merchants Ivan Turõgin and Sergei Potapenko back to the United States. The two men are accused of internet fraud and entering into criminal agreements in the U.S.

"The government concluded that the extradition of the citizens to the U.S. is justified, in accordance with the rule of law and does not disproportionately affect the rights of the citizens," said Estonian Minister of Justice Kalle Laanet (Reform).

In  a press release, the Ministry of Justice said it had given serious consideration to Tallinn Circuit Court's November 29 ruling to overturn an earlier government decision to extradite the two men. The justice minister added that the shortcomings identified by the court have now been examined and rectified.

Among other things, an Estonian representative has inspected the detention conditions in the U.S. detention facility where the citizens will be transferred after extradition.

"At the request of the court, we have verified that the detention in the U.S. facility does not entail any violation of the fundamental rights of the citizens that would give us grounds to refuse extradition. The conditions there are humane and lawful," said Laanet.

The Ministry of Justice stressed that extradition does not automatically mean an extradited citizen is guilty of the crime they stand accused of. The question of guilt is decided in the country requesting extradition and citizens are extradited in order to participate in this procedure. Only the court of the country requesting extradition is able to decide on the guilt of the accused.

It is possible to challenge a government order under the Estonian Code of Criminal Procedure. To do so, an appeal may be lodged with the Administrative Court within ten days of the notification of the initial extradition ruling.

The purpose of international judicial cooperation is to provide mutual assistance in criminal proceedings and, where necessary, to enable judicial proceedings to be conducted in the countries where the alleged offences have taken place. This is necessary in order to ensure that the rights of victims are protected across borders.

"At the moment we are talking about extraditing two citizens to the U.S. because there are hundreds of thousands of victims of alleged cyber fraud and the suspects happen to be on Estonian soil. Similar extradition requests can be made by Estonia to other countries, both inside and outside the European Union," Laanet explained.

The number of such extradition requests is expected to rise in the coming years as crime becomes increasingly international. This is largely due to the additional possibilities and dangers connected to the internet.

The initial decision to extradite the two men was taken by the Estonian government in September. They are suspected of committing internet fraud and entering into criminal agreements in the United States.

The court found that the government had not done its due diligence when it came to studying incarceration conditions in U.S. prisons, where the suspects would likely end up after their extradition. The government also failed to analyze whether the extradition would constitute a cumulative infringement of fundamental rights, which would necessitate considering criminal proceedings in Estonia.

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Editor: Michael Cole

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