Germany’s highest court has blocked the extradition of a man accused of having stolen over $60 million in a number of massive global card heists to the United States.
Ercan Findikoglu, 33, was first arrested at the Frankfurt Airport in December 2013. Over the course of the past year, a lower court decided to permit Findikoglu’s extradition. However, Germany’s federal court, the Bundesverfassungsgericht, decided to hear the man’s appeal.
In its ruling announced late in November, the court’s three judges criticized the lower court for failing to obtain assurances from the United States that Findikoglu would not receive a disproportionate sentence.
Under German law, 15 years is the maximum sentence for property-related crimes. If extradited to the United States, Findikoglu could face up to as much as 250 years in prison.
In late 2012 and early 2013, the accused participated in several hacking operations against EnStage and ElectraCard, payment card processors both of which are based in India.
Findikoglu and his associates perpetrated the attacks by withdrawing the limits on prepaid debit cards, which allowed them to steal large sums of money using stolen PINs and cloned cards.
The group of hackers targeted ATMs from both companies around the world. EnStage was the hardest hit of the two, with $40 million withdrawn over the space of 10 hours in February 2013.
Findikoglu has been wanted by U.S. federal authorities at least as far back as 2008, when FBI conducted an operation against the hacker’s couriers. Codenamed “Virtual Earthquake,” the sting led to the discovery of more than 1 million people’s credit card information in Findikoglu’s possession.
Back then, authorities referred to him as the “world’s number two hacker.”
Following the German court’s ruling, Findikoglu’s lawyer, Oliver Wallasch, commented that the lower court will likely seek clarification from the United States on possible sentences for his client. That information, however, will in no way bind Germany to any particular response.