Spanish hacker extradited
11 Apr 2006


A hacker suspected of stealing millions from Spanish bank customers in large-scale phishing attacks has been extradited to Spain from Argentina and could face up to 40 years in prison.

José Manuel García Rodríguez, also known as "el Gordo España" in the Argentine town where he lived and "Tasmania" in hacking circles, was captured last July in a huge international police operation. Spanish authorities want him in connection with stealing online banking data and breaking into accounts. It is widely believed he was the leader of an international phishing group that siphoned off millions of Euros from their victims.

The hacker originally came into the news in 2004, when he fled Spain after being accused of hacking related crimes. Spanish police didnt stop their investigation and pursued him to Argentina, where he established himself in Carcarañá, a small town some 360 kilometres from Buenos Aires. In a joint Spanish-Argentine operation codenamed "Pampa-Tasmania" he was first placed under surveillance and then apprehended. The Spanish Guardia Civil was directly involved and actually flew out to Argentina to set up wiretaps, which some considered to be illegal. In total fifteen people were arrested in Spain and Argentina as a result of this investigation. One of the men detained, a computer engineer from Romania, claimed "Tasmania" was the leader of the criminal group.

The man remained in an Argentine jail until March 2006 because of legal wrangling. The extradition treaty between Spain and Argentina requires the crime for which a person is being extradited to be recognised by law in both countries. This is currently not the case regarding electronic fraud, which is not covered by Argentine law. However, other charges of conventional fraud and criminal damages together with the desire of the hacker himself proved to be enough. Now the man who had nine international and three Spanish arrest warrants issued against his person will face justice in his home country.