Moscow yesterday accused Washington of abducting the son of a Russian lawmaker who was arrested in the Maldives on suspicion of being one of the world's most prolific traffickers of stolen credit card details.
The legislator, Valery Seleznev, expressed fear that his son Roman, who is being held in the American territory of Guam, will be accused of all sorts of sins including "killing Kennedy".
The US Justice Department said on Monday that Seleznev, 30, had been detained at the weekend and charged with hacking into US retail computer systems in a scheme that cost banks over US$1.1 million in losses. He faces up to 30 years in prison.
A US law enforcement source confirmed the suspect is the son of the Russian lawmaker.
Valery Seleznev accused Washington of committing a crime against his son and said there was no evidence he was a hacker.
"This is the abduction of a Russian national. It has nothing to do with arrest," the lawmaker with the ultra-nationalist Liberal Democratic Party told the Dozhd TV channel.
He said his son could not have been a criminal because he had been injured in a terrorist act in Morocco in 2011 and was now disabled.
According to US officials, the suspect, who is charged with installing malicious software to steal credit card numbers, operated the scheme between October 2009 and February 2011. He and his partners stole more than 200,000 credit card numbers, according to the charges.
Seleznev said that before 2011 his son worked for companies that had no connection to IT.
"I fear that now he will be put under so much pressure as if he killed Kennedy and even was Monica Lewinsky," Seleznev told the state news agency ITAR-TASS. Lewinsky is a former White House intern with whom ex-president Bill Clinton admitted to having an affair.
"We all know what justice in the United States is all about," he said, noting that if his son was guilty he should be tried in a Russian court.
The Russian foreign ministry said Seleznev's detention in the Maldives - from where he was transported to Guam for an initial court appearance - was a "hostile step", adding that Russian diplomatic missions had not been notified of his arrest.
"It is not the first time that the US side resorts to the de facto abduction of a Russian national ignoring the bilateral 1999 treaty on mutual legal assistance," the foreign ministry said in a statement.
It referred to a number of cases including the arrest of Viktor Bout, convicted of arms trafficking by a US court.
The foreign ministry added it expected Washington to provide Moscow with an "intelligible explanation of what has happened" and allow access to Seleznev.
Moscow also demanded that the Maldives government provide an explanation of their role.
The case has further inflamed Russian anger amid a bitter tug of war with Washington over the fate of Ukraine.