A Russian man wanted by the Justice Department on charges connected to hacking U.S. companies now claims the FBI offered him immunity in exchange for accepting responsibility for cyberattacks targeting former Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
As The Washington Times reports, Yevgeny Nikulin, the alleged hacker, laid the claim to Russian media Thursday in a letter sent from a Czech Republic prison cell amid an international extradition battle currently underway between Washington and Moscow.
FBI agents promised Mr. Nikulin money, American citizenship and a free apartment for taking the fall over hacking Mrs. Clinton’s campaign, he alleged in a letter published Thursday by Nastoyashchoe Vremya, a Russian-language website.
“[They told me:] you will have to confess to breaking into Clinton’s inbox for [President Trump] on behalf of [Russian President Vladimir Putin],” Mr. Nikulin wrote, as translated by The Moscow Times.
“Later I received an offer from an agent: “You will have to declare that you broke Hillary Clinton mailbox for J. Trump on Putin’s orders, you must agree to the extradition to the US, then we will remove all charges give you apartment and money, US citizenship “- I gave up shortly” questioning “was over, the agent said that they had come”
According to Nikulin, the proposal was made during conversations 14-15 November. The following conversation then took place on February 7 (translation via Currenttime.tv)
“You have to say that it is you broke-mail Clinton, that you prepared and entered into a democratic network and polling stations on Putin’s orders, you call the names of accomplices, agree to extradition, and in America we will resolve all the issues will be living in an apartment and we will provide you all.”
“He was offered to falsely testify that he was cooperating in the attack on the Democratic Party,” defense attorney Martin Sadilek said Thursday, the Associated Press reported.
FBI agents interviewed Mr. Nikulin twice since his arrest, he wrote, and each time asked him to confess to hacking American political targets. Mr. Nikulin said he refused their initial request last November, then received a second offer three months later.
FBI agents asked Mr. Nikulin to admit hacking Mrs. Clinton’s presidential campaign, Democratic Party computers and American polling stations “on Putin’s orders,” he wrote.
In exchange, he alleges, the FBI said he’d be extradited to the U.S. but ultimately given money, citizenship and a free apartment.
The FBI declined to comment.
The Justice Department has charged Mr. Nikulin with hacking LinkedIn, Dropbox and Formspring, but not for cyberattacks on the political targets compromised during the run up to last year’s election. The U.S. government has largely attributed those cyberattacks to a division of Russia’s military intelligence agency, GRU, referred to by names including APT 28, Pawn Storm and Fancy Bear.
An extradition hearing concerning Mr. Nikulin had scheduled for Thursday, May 11, in Prague, but proceedings were abruptly postponed until May 30 due to formal objections raised by defense attorneys involving language barriers and other issues, the Associated Press reported.
Additionally, as The Moscow Times reports, the case has drawn some attention in Russia, where reporters have unearthed photos of the self-described “used car salesman” driving lavish cars and taking photos with the Russian elite. Nikulin’s social media pages had included snaps with both the daughter of Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, and Kremlin press secretary President Dmitry Peskov.
The Russian has since claimed that he met Shoigu’s daughter by chance, and only bumped into Peskov when they “sat in the same cafe.”