Inside Story: Did Sri Lankan Govt. allow one of most wanted Russian cybercriminals to escape?

EXCLUSIVE | UPDATED 


New diplomatic row between three nations, Russia-Sri Lanka-USA is on the knife edge

Shocking revelations of Evgeniy Mikhailovich Bogachev

Did Bogachev disguise as Farkhad Manokhin ( Manokhin Fedor Raufovich)?

One of the ten most wanted cybercriminals escaped Sri Lanka on the private jet of the Rosoboronexport?

The man escaped the Island by boat?


by Our Defence and Diplomatic Correspondents

( December 21, 2017, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) This is a shocking and chilling development on national security and the art of diplomacy, where the negligence of order within the internal administrative system is causing strength of the serious political influence by the external parties to manifest outcomes that seriously damage the ethical values that the Nation as a whole has invested in. The incident is much bigger than we may think; the consequences of the entire episode carry the serious risk of creating a dangerous situation that most of us would not perceive. It is not good news. It will hit the heart of the nation when the country is vulnerable for any sophisticated cyberattacks.

Let’s begin the story.

It was in last March that a couple of local media outlets reported the story of a Russian man arrested by the Weligama police by accusing him of money laundering and overstaying. The issue did not go viral at that time. The reports suggested the name of the arrested person as Farin Manokin while reliable sources suggested his name as Farkhad Manokhin ( Manokhin Fedor Raufovich).

However, the same name came into the light again a few days ago by indicating the fresh diplomatic row between the three nations, United States of America, Sri Lanka and Federation of Russia.

“The subject has escaped,” – said many stories and speculations elaborating the unhappiness of the US embassy officials and happiness of the Russian embassy officials in Colombo.

Who is this Manokhin?

Our research have led to and reliable sources within security agencies, as well as sources within foreign missions in Colombo, have suggested, that this was not the real name of the arrested man and he is much bigger than many local officials in the law enforcement agencies thought he was.

To unearth the details of this person’s identity, we need to know the situation faced by the police officers in Weligama police station.

Weligama Police Station

According to reliable sources, the Russian embassy officials panicked when they received the news about a person who is responsible for money laundering has been arrested in Weligama, a remote but a sort of tourist hotspot in Southern Sri Lanka. Then they rushed to contact the highest authority of the government and other useful parties including private entities.

The reliable sources in the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) indicated that the operation was coordinated by the higher officials of the institution along with the higher officials of the INTERPOL. As the result, the accused person was arrested on one Friday, and produced to the high court on Monday; the conditional bail was granted with the financial bond of Rs. 5000 and three Personal bonds of Rs. 500,000 each.

It is learned that the former BOI chairmen Upul Jayasuriya PC along with another senior lawyer represented the Defendant.

However, when Sri Lanka Guardian tried to contact Mr Upul Jayasuriya PC, for his response, his contact number was not responding. Therefore, we wish to give an open request to Upul Jayasuriya if he has any response regarding this issue, to please contact us. We would like to publish any response regarding the issue that we understand to be genuine, as we believe it is a serious matter about which the general public need to know and have opportunity to protect their rights to information on Public issues.

The interesting fact is that since the day he got the bail, the accused criminal has not reported to any government authority.

Sri Lanka Guardian learns that once he got the bail, he was admitted to one of the private hospitals in Colombo and later he had moved to and stayed in a private hotel in Maradana, Colombo until his remarkable plan for escaping Sri Lanka’s justice system was successfully executed.

In the meanwhile, the highest authority of the state is understood to have summoned in this regard, two senior officers, one from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the other from the Criminal Investigation Department.

Unconfirmed sources revealed both, Esala Weerakoon, then the secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and senior Deputy Inspector General ( DIG) Ravi Seneviratne of the CID were summoned by the highest political authority and accused of causing worry to Russians, creating a hostile situation that caused panic and that which could be adverse to Sri Lanka.

 

The hotel he stayed during the “proceeding”

It is not confirmed that the highest authority was informed of the gravity and danger of the man who was grilled by the police. Russian officials and other parties kept the true identity of the person a secret, which seems to have helped find an easy way to get the fugitive out of the net.

 

During the discussion, the political authority is understood to have ordered the safety of the person and making the secure avenue for his safe departure – a must.

Some sources suggested it was managed by the Sri Lankan authority by using the newly enacted bill, the Extradition Bill the terms of which resulted in a decision that favoured Russia.

In the meanwhile, the United States embassy in Colombo and other embassy officials who received the information about the matter through trusted local sources urged the Sri Lankan government to handover the criminal quickly by referring to the Extradition Bill, as he is one of most wanted men on the planet for cybercrimes.

Warrant of Arrest

He is one of most wanted men for the US authority, sources in the mission indicated.

But, sources suggested, Russian authority has indirectly threatened the government of Sri Lanka and urged the safety of the Russian man, without detailing the information about the person. Russian officials at all times were able to maintain very low profile on the man, probably to enable a way out smoothly.

Who is this man; is the most important question; that unfortunately many could not answer.

The investigative reports known as the INV files maintained in the database of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has included four Russian nationals among ten most wanted men for cybercrimes at global level. They are mentioned as, Alexsey Belan, Dmitry Aleksandrovich Dokuchaev, Igor Anatolyevich Sushchin, and Evgeniy Mikhailovich Bogachev. All of their detailed biographical accounts can be browsed on FBI official website.

The news reports together with detailed indications provided by reliable sources and the reports available on the public domain are leading to the real identity of the man arrested in Weligama.

The state-run newspaper Daily News reported that the US officials in Colombo mission have already expressed their displeasure and unhappiness over the action taken by the government of Sri Lanka on this issue. US officials requested either handing over the person to them or prosecuting the man in Sri Lanka. But the Government, sources say, refused to take any action after bailing out the person, but instead ensured his safe escape.

Detailed profiles on Russian hackers in the FBI dictate base suggested, three out of four Russians are most wanted for Cybercrimes and related criminal acts whereas one man among four is not only responsible for serious cybercrimes but also for series of money laundering activities. This is the very nucleus that created an avenue to find the details of the man who was arrested last March and escaped Sri Lanka a few weeks ago.

He could be none other than Evgeniy Mikhailovich Bogachev, a 34 years old mastermind behind many cybercrimes including making hostage situation for millions of internet users and he is the man, that many interested parties believe, is responsible for building and distributing the ZeuS banking Trojan known as Game Over Zeus.

Evgeniy, approximately 5’-9” tall is using several pseudonyms and code names including Yevgeniy Bogachev, Evgeniy Mikhaylovich Bogachev, “lucky12345”, “slavik”, “Pollingsoon”.

According to the FBI’s INV report, “the United States Department of State’s Transnational Organized Crime Rewards Program is offering a reward of up to $3 million for information leading to the arrest and/or conviction of Evgeniy Mikhailovich Bogachev.

The FBI INV report detailed further:

“Evgeniy Mikhailovich Bogachev, using the online monikers “lucky12345” and “slavik”, is wanted for his alleged involvement in a wide-ranging racketeering enterprise and scheme that installed, without authorization, malicious software known as “Zeus” on victims’ computers. The software was used to capture bank account numbers, passwords, personal identification numbers, and other information necessary to log into online banking accounts. While Bogachev knowingly acted in a role as an administrator, others involved in the scheme conspired to distribute spam and phishing emails, which contained links to compromised websites. Victims who visited these websites were infected with the malware, which Bogachev and others utilized to steal money from the victims’ bank accounts. This online account takeover fraud has been investigated by the FBI since the summer of 2009.

How the fraud works

Starting in September of 2011, the FBI began investigating a modified version of the Zeus Trojan, known as GameOver Zeus (GOZ). It is believed GOZ is responsible for more than one million computer infections, resulting in financial losses of more than $100 million.

On August 22, 2012, Bogachev was indicted under the nickname “lucky12345” by a federal grand jury in the District of Nebraska on charges of Conspiracy to Participate in Racketeering Activity; Bank Fraud; Conspiracy to Violate the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act; Conspiracy to Violate the Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act; and Aggravated Identity Theft. On May 19, 2014, Bogachev was indicted in his true name by a federal grand jury in the Western District of Pennsylvania on charges of Conspiracy; Computer Fraud; Wire Fraud; Bank Fraud; and Money Laundering. On May 30, 2014, a criminal complaint was issued in the District of Nebraska that ties the previously indicted nickname of “lucky12345” to Bogachev and charges him with Conspiracy to Commit Bank Fraud.”


Related Link: Read this article in Sinhala 


As reported earlier, it was the FBI that announced that they are offering USD $3 million bounty for information leading to the arrest and/or conviction, of Evgeniy Bogachev. FBI and other relevant authorities strongly believe that he is among others who are responsible for possible maneuvers of the US presidential election outcomes in 2016.

Meanwhile, it is reported that illegal local and foreign money launderers are ramping in Sri Lanka, with the blessing of the ruling alliance. Some of the private companies including media organizations are closely working with those foreign moneylenders to expand their net wealth.

It is in this context one of the closest associates to the President Vladimir Putin, Mr Vladimir Kozhin has ordered the changes needed to be done over the local agent of the Rosoboronexport which was for decades managed by Diesel & Hydraulics Engineers, founded in 1996 by late Mr. T. Priyantha Silva.

Subsequent to the sudden demise of Priyantha Silva, local competitors of the business rushed to grab the agency and it is reported that the company called Capital Maharaja is among the top “bidders” for the opportunity.

According to reliable sources in Moscow, Kozhin’s suggestion was to take Capital Maharaja as the local partner of the Rosoboronexport and making all forthcoming deals through them. The much-discussed deal of buying a Gepard 5.1, an ocean-going patrol ship, Armed Personal Carriers ( APCs) and fighter jets were lining up through the newly installed agent, regardless of their lack of knowledge, credibility and capacity.

However Kozhin’s suggestion to give the agency to the particular company was based on the political influence that the company gained within the certain segments of the present government in Sri Lanka, sources in Moscow suggested.

This is where the Russian ship played a significant role in diplomatic circle. Apart from this ship, three ships from India, two ships from Japan (currently being constructed), one from China and one free ship from the USA are also expected to be received by Sri Lanka to ensure its maritime trade and security.

“Why does Sri Lanka need this many ships”, is the most important question of the moment to be asked; especially when the ships ordered from India observed so many shortcomings but even the future orders are proceeding without any hesitation or proper prior due diligence investigations. Megalomaniac – for securing his job – the present Navy Commander Vice Admiral S S Ranasinghe has already created freedom for all looters.

Meanwhile, when this issue turned into a political turmoil, the team from the Rosoboronexport including its head was rushed to Colombo to finalize the agreements.

Other Western missions including the USA mission in Colombo were on red alert and they were closely observed every moment by the engaged parties in this business. It is learned, that the Government of Sri Lanka came under heavy pressure over these deals not only because of the larger scale of corruptions in place but also because the political significance of these actions could lead to the country becoming isolated.

This is especially likely, if any state party involved with any company is blacklisted by another nation, it could create a hostile situation with the particular host country moving to align with other nations.

Rosoboronexport is one such company which was blacklisted by the US government as a part of their sanctions against Russia. The fate of Russian-Sri Lankan trade deals directly or indirectly depend on the conditions in the trade agreements the Sri Lankan government has signed with the USA.

Reliable sources in the foreign missions in Colombo indicated that the government of Sri Lanka will have to face the legal dispute if they are directly involved in trading with blacklisted parties.

This very issue was well-informed by many parties including the dumped and mocked Sri Lankan mission in Moscow headed by Saman Weerasinghe, who has no qualification to be a diplomat. He is one of the tea importers from Sri Lanka to Russia, responsible for the recent ban imposed by the Russian government agencies on Sri Lankan agro products.

It is height of mockery, that the political leadership in the country has granted him another two months’ service extension despite ordering the impartial investigation on the issue where there is no moral authority for the incumbent ambassador to hold the position due conflict of interest.

How can anyone conduct the impartial investigation on the issue if the Ambassador (the competitive authority) himself is one of the main foreign tea sellers in Russia? Instead of suspending the service immediately to ensure the impartiality of the investigation, his service has been extended for two more months clearly political mockery.

Sources within the former USSR bloc told the Sri Lanka Guardian that there are possible interlinks between the ongoing discussions for defence agreements and the decision taken by the Russian government to ban Sri Lankan agro-products.

As we reported in one of our news items, senior officials within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Colombo have also presumed that there are possible interlinks between the sudden ban imposed by Russia and the defence agreements that the Sri Lankan authority are expected to sign with Russian Defence authority.

Nonetheless, the arrival of the Rosoboronexport team is allowing many concerned parties to think deep and construct possible links between the incidents reported since the Russian man was arrested in March in Weligama.

As none of the government or non-governmental intermediating parties are transparent about the official deals, it is hard to say the exact stage of those defence deals. But, it is learned that Rosoboronexport team or the team that came here disguised as Rosoboronexport representatives were closely involved with the affair regarding the man who was avoiding the law enforcement agencies in Sri Lanka.

The shocking news according to a reliable source is that, the head of Rosoboronexport came to Colombo on his private jet not only to observe the final stages of the defence deal but also to ensure the secure exit of the Russian man from the Island nation.

Sri Lanka Guardian learns, that one of the most wanted men for cybercrimes, the Russian man went to the international airport at Katunayake escorted by the members of the special security division to protect the orders of the highest authority of the country.

However, when Sri Lanka Guardian contacted the relevant parties in the security forces, they stated that they can give the official statement on the issue by neither accepting nor refusing the question of facilitating the security to a most wanted cybercriminal to leave the jurisdiction where he was trapped for months.

Interestingly this incident has two versions.

One version suggested that the head of Rosoboronexport actually came here to Colombo and met few senior and most powerful officials privately; then took Evgeniy Bogachev along with him on his departure.

Second version suggested that the Russian man who was bilking the security agencies in the country escaped via sea route by a boat.

A photo seized from a computer belonging to Roman Seleznev shows him posing in front of one of his boats. Photo from the Department of Justice, US

Strong demand by US diplomatic officials is not a simple request; it indeed has serious impact. In the meanwhile, it is interesting to know whether the government authority played the power in favour of Russia by antagonizing the US.

Hunting Russian hackers has been well-placed modus operandi by the US for decades now. One of the most important and fitting example was hunting down Russian hacker Roman Seleznev when he was holidaying in Maldives.

The government of Maldives coordinated the operation with the FBI officials in 2014 though both countries have not signed the Extradition Bill. Detaining of Seleznev was described by the Russian authority as extrajudicial abduction or kidnapping while expressing displeasure to the Male government.

Seleznev was first taken to the military base in Hawaii, then Guam to stand trial. ‘After an eight-day trial in 2016, a federal court jury found Seleznev guilty of the 38 counts, and the following year was sentenced to 27-years imprisonment’. Reliable sources say it was the US mission in Colombo played a significant role in hunting down one of most dangerous Russian hackers that Seleznev was.

Most reliable sources indicated that the gravity of the nabbed man by Weligama police was underestimated. Negligence had opened a wonderful opportunity for Defence party to protect the man and find a pathway to securely escape the local justice system.

In the meanwhile, some local media spread the news along with the photograph of the person. But our research suggested that it was not the actual image of the person but an image browsed from the internet portals.

The bottom line is that one of the most wanted cybercriminals on the planet was nabbed by the police, but the manipulators of the system used the inbuilt negligence to create a safe haven for the criminal and those who would come after him.

Sri Lanka is the Island nation which for decades maintained the qualified comprehensive foreign policy based on non-aligned principles. The policy then led to many positive outcomes including the eradication of one of the most brutal terrorist outfits, the LTTE. Eliminating the rebels was the result of collaborative efforts of the regional and global corporation.

However, the Russian involvement and their manipulation in Sri Lankan judicial system are creating deep threat to the independence of the country. This will have a serious impact in many areas in the future of this nation.

If the man who escaped the Island is Evgeniy Bogachev then one could easily say one fine alleged criminal who is accused of manipulating the liberty of mankind is an example to understand the depth of the situation. He has escaped by laughing at the fragile system in Sri Lanka.

Where are we as the nation heading in international waters?

Author: Sri Lanka Guardian

Sri Lanka Guardian has been providing breaking news & views for the progressive community since 2007. We are independent and non-profit.

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