BUCHAREST (Reuters) - Romanian hacker “Guccifer”, famous for breaking into emails of former U.S. president George W. Bush’s family and entertainment figures, appealed against his arrest on Friday but the chances for his release appeared slim.
A source in the prosecutor’s office confirmed that masked police had netted Marcel Lazar Lehel, known by the aliases “Guccifer” and “Small Fume”, on Wednesday and said he was currently being detained for 29 days in Bucharest pending a criminal investigation.
The hacker shot to fame last February after he hacked into Bush family emails and posted artwork by the former president, including self-portraits in the shower and bathtub.
“(Guccifer) was assigned a criminal defense lawyer,” the prosecutor’s office source said, adding his appeal against his detention would be considered by the court on Monday or Tuesday.
Asked by Reuters whether it had received an extradition request for Guccifer from the United States, Romania’s justice ministry said it had no information on the matter.
Local media in Guccifer’s home region of Arad in northwest Romania near the Hungarian border said he was a taxi driver by trade, but this could not be confirmed.
Top Romanian lawyer Catalin Dancu said there was “close to no chance” of Guccifer’s request to be freed being granted.
“Investigating hacking on such a scale... is an offence that cannot be done with the suspect still at large,” said Dancu.
Guccifer has said he used a variety of methods, including guessing the answers to security questions, to get access to customer accounts at Facebook, Comcast Corp, AOL Inc and other companies.
He already received a suspended sentence in 2012 after a string of hacking charges in Romania.
Guccifer claimed a wide range of victims, including Romanian officials, and provided documents to support those claims to a U.S. website, The Smoking Gun. (here)
Romanian authorities have so far made no mention of Guccifer’s activities in the United States or elsewhere.
The hacker has claimed his other victims include Tina Brown, the former editor of The New Yorker magazine; “Downton Abbey” creator Julian Fellowes; journalist Carl Bernstein; venture capitalist John Doerr, and MetLife Chief Executive Steven Kandarian.
Guccifer also compromised many former U.S. military officials, including ex-Secretary of the Air Force George Roche.
Last year, the hacker distributed emotional emails sent to former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell from European Parliament member Corina Cretu, a Romanian, prompting Powell to deny that they had had an affair.
The U.S. embassy in Bucharest said Romanian hackers had stolen about $1 billion from U.S. accounts in 2012.
A report by Verizon said Romania, a former communist country that is now a U.S. ally in NATO and a member of the European Union, was the world’s second-biggest hacking center after China.
Editing by Gareth Jones