Tsvetnenko extradition hearing delayed

22/03/2021 - 14:00

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An extradition hearing for Perth-based tech millionaire Eugeni Tsvetnenko has been postponed for the third time in 18 months.

Tsvetnenko extradition hearing delayed
In December 2018, Mr Tsvetnenko was arrested following an extradition arrest warrant relating to his alleged involvement in the multimillion-dollar text-messaging scam.

An extradition hearing for Perth-based tech millionaire Eugeni 'Zhenya' Tsvetnenko has been postponed for the third time in 18 months, with his next court appearance now scheduled for late April.

The founder of blockchain technology company DigitalX has been fighting extradition to the US since being charged by US authorities with a string of offences in 2016, including conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud, and aggravated identity theft.

The charges, which carry a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, relate to his alleged involvement in a $100 million scheme in which hundreds of thousands of mobile phone users were allegedly charged monthly fees for unsolicited messages with horoscopes, celebrity gossip, and trivia; a scheme US authorities allege helped to fund his "lavish lifestyle".

During an appearance in Perth Magistrates Court this morning, Mr Tsvetnenko smiled and waved at family members in the gallery as his lawyer Anthony Young sought an adjournment on the basis that US authorities had delivered significant materials relevant to the matter on March 12, giving the party just five working days to review and respond.

Mr Young argued that the defendant and his legal team should be afforded reasonable time to respond and allow alleged deficiencies in the documentation to be remedied.

But lawyer Eric Heenan, representing the US authorities, said the respondent’s inability to meet deadlines over the past few years was to blame, with hearings having been previously scheduled and adjourned in August 2019 and March 2020.

He also argued that there were no substantive changes to the case within the material supplied.

Following a 30-minute deliberation, Magistrate Evan Shackleton found in favour of the defendant, concluding that Mr Tsvetnenko and his legal team had not had reasonable time to prepare and adjourning the matter to April 27.

As well as granting a four-week extension, he also requested that materials be lodged by April 19 to avoid further delays.

“These matters need to be finalised,” he said.

“We cannot have matters like this held over a two-year period.”

Mr Tsvetnenko has been remanded in custody.

The new court date falls within the same week as the hearing for Mr Tsvetnenko’s lawsuit against the state’s Department of Justice, in which he claims he has been unlawfully detained since his arrest in 2018.

In the claim, K&L Gates lawyer Nicholas Brown argued that the warrants remanded him into the custody of the Commonwealth, not into the custody of Western Australia.

Mr Brown has called for a writ of certiorari to be delivered quashing the remand warrant issued by Chief Magistrate Steven Heath in October 2020 purporting to authorise that he remain in custody.

The news comes just months after two Australian men accused of participating in the same international text-messaging fraud scheme, 52-year-old Sydney man Michael Pearse and 33-year-old Chinese national Yongchao Liu, were extradited to the US.

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