In Global First, Cypriot National Extradited to USA for Fraud

The United States activated its extradition treaty with Cyprus, extraditing last week one Cypriot and one Lebanese citizen from the Mediteranean island to face justice in the United States. It is the first time in history a Cypriot has been extradited to the US.

 A 2013 change in the Cypriot Constitution allowed Epifanou to be the first Cypriot national to be extradited from the island to the US. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)A 2013 change in the Cypriot Constitution allowed Epifanou to be the first Cypriot national to be extradited from the island to the US. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)According to a statement from the Department of Justice, Lebanese citizen Ghassan Diab was charged with two counts of money-laundering over US$100,000 and has previously been identified as an Associate of Hezbollah, a lebanese Political party whose militant wing is considered a terrorist group by the United States. 

 According to the DOJ, Diab “is alleged to have conspired to engage in, and actually engaged, in the laundering of drug proceeds through the use of the black market peso exchange in support of Hezbollah’s global criminal-support network.”

 The Cypriot is 21-year-old Joshua Polloso Epifaniou, a Nicosian native who has been indicted in the state of Georgia for wire fraud, conspiracy to commit identity theft, and extortion related to a protected computer among other crimes. 

 “Between approximately October 2014 and November 2016, Epifaniou worked with co-conspirators to steal personal identifying information from user and customer databases at victim websites in order to extort the websites into paying ransoms under threat of public disclosure of the sensitive data,” the statement said. 

Epifanou would have been approximately between the ages of 15 and 17 at the time. He was arrested in 2018 at the age of 19. 

Epifanou allegedly obtained the confidential personal information from a variety of sources including a California-based games publisher, a New York hardware company and the Atlanta-based Turner Broadcasting Systems which oversees such notable properties as TNT, TBS and CNN. 

“Epifaniou allegedly used proxy servers located in foreign countries to log into online email accounts and send messages to the victim websites threatening to leak the sensitive data unless a ransom was paid,” said the DOJ.  “He is alleged to have defrauded the entities of $56,850 in bitcoin, and two victims incurred losses of over $530,000 from remediation costs associated with the incident.”

The Cypriot constitution was amended in 2013 to allow for the extradition of its citizens to a European nation or third country on the basis of a European arrest warrant. Thanks to a bilateral treaty between the US and EU, such a citizen could be extradited to the USA, as was the case with Epifaniou.