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28 Jul, 2023 10:09

Brazil refuses to hand over alleged Russian spy to US

Sergey Cherkasov is serving a jail term in Brasilia for using a fake ID
Brazil refuses to hand over alleged Russian spy to US

A request from the US to Brazil, for the extradition to Washington of a suspected Russian foreign-intelligence agent currently serving a prison term there, has been denied, the Latin American nation’s Ministry of Justice and Public Security has announced.

The ministry called the US petition “unfounded” because Brazil’s Supreme Federal Court has already granted an equivalent request from Russia, according to its statement issued on Thursday.

Sergey Cherkasov was convicted of using a fake identity and is currently serving a 15-year sentence in a prison in Brasilia. Between 2012 and 2022, he had posed as a Victor Muller Ferreira.

In April last year, he was arrested in The Netherlands, where he had flown to take part in an internship at the International Criminal Court in The Hague. The country had reportedly been tipped off about his real identity.

Dutch authorities handed the suspect over to Brazil, where a court sentenced him in July 2022 on three separate counts of identity fraud during international travel.

The punishment was later reviewed, on the grounds that all three charges were related to the same crime committed over a decade. This week, a court in Sao Paulo handed down a final sentence of five years, two months and 15 days, newspaper O Globo has reported.

Brazilian authorities believe that 36-year-old Cherkasov is a Russian agent who spent a decade developing his cover story. Moscow, which has denied that he is a spy, sought his extradition on drug-related allegations, with Brazil granting that extradition request in March. The US applied for his extradition in April, citing espionage charges.

Cherkasov’s defense has proposed he should be allowed to serve the rest of his term in a semi-restricted environment. The Russian consulate in Sao Paulo could offer him accommodation, the lawyers have indicated.

Brazilian Justice Minister Flavio Dino stressed that the Russian national is to remain imprisoned in South America for the time being.

The Wall Street Journal had singled out Cherkasov as a likely candidate for a prisoner swap, after the arrest in march by Russian authorities of the Journal’s correspondent Evan Gershkovich, for alleged espionage.

Gershkovich was accused of using his journalistic credentials as a cover for collecting classified information about the Russian defense industry. Both the newspaper and the suspect have denied the claims.