March 4, 2016 / 3:17 PM / 4 years ago

Romania approves extradition of convicted hacker 'Guccifer' to U.S

(Reuters) - Romania’s top court has approved a request by U.S. authorities to extradite a convicted hacker known as Guccifer, a source within Romania’s DIICOT anti-organised crime and terrorism unit told Reuters on Friday.

Marcel Lazar Lehel, 40, is escorted by masked policemen in Bucharest, after being arrested in Arad, 550 km (337 miles) west of Bucharest January 22, 2014. REUTERS/Mediafax/Silviu Matei

“The court approved an 18-month temporary extradition to America for the hacker. This follows a request made by U.S. authorities,” the source said.

A Romanian justice ministry spokeswoman said details of the extradition request had not yet been made public.

The U.S. Justice Department said in 2014 that a U.S. federal grand jury had indicted Marcel Lazar Lehel on charges of wire fraud, unauthorised access to a protected computer, aggravated identity theft, cyberstalking and obstruction of justice.

The United States accuses Lehel, known by aliases including “Guccifer” and “Small Fume”,of stealing data from email and social media accounts of U.S. celebrities and politicians.

Lehel was sentenced by a Romanian court to four years in jail in 2014 for illegally accessing email accounts of public figures “with the aim of getting ... confidential data” and is serving another three-year term for other offences.

That case focussed only on Lehel’s activities in Romania, prosecutors have said. His victims included former secret service chief George Maior and other Romanian officials.

Lehel uploaded documents to a U.S. website, The Smoking Gun (here), saying there he had used methods including guessing the answers to security questions to access accounts at Facebook, Comcast Corp, AOL Inc and other companies.

The hacker Guccifer shot to fame in 2013 after he claimed responsibility for hacking into George W. Bush family emails and posted artwork by the former president, including self-portraits in the bathtub.

He also distributed emails exchanged by former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell and Corina Cretu, a Romanian member of the European Parliament, prompting Powell to deny the two had had an affair.

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