Gatineau man facing extradition on ransomware charges denied release

·2 min read
Sébastien Vachon-Desjardins is facing extradition to the United States for allegedly taking part in a ransomware scheme that targeted American and French entities. (Dmytro Tyshchenko/Shutterstock - image credit)
Sébastien Vachon-Desjardins is facing extradition to the United States for allegedly taking part in a ransomware scheme that targeted American and French entities. (Dmytro Tyshchenko/Shutterstock - image credit)

A Gatineau, Que., man accused of being a key player in an international ransomware ring was denied his release Thursday morning, pending an extradition hearing that could see him face trial for extortion in the United States.

Sébastien Vachon-Desjardins appeared via video conference to hear the decision in the Quebec Superior Court of Justice.

Justice Catherine Mandeville said Vachon-Desjardins, who was arrested in January 2021, could pose a flight risk or risk of reoffending because he may have access to significant sums of cryptocurrency and the ability to contact an international criminal organization.

Mandeville also said he could use his technical skills to hide his identity and location, facilitate an escape or even destroy evidence in the investigation against NetWalker, the organization he's alleged to have worked with.

She also raised the concern he could have access to stolen data obtained through crime to forge a new false identity.

According to a document from the RCMP, authorities seized hundreds of thousands of dollars from Vachon-Desjardins's home and safety deposit boxes after his arrest, while also discovering a cryptocurrency wallet with contents valued at about $50 million.

Mandeville said information on a Polish server identified Vachon-Desjardins as one of the most profitable affiliates of the NetWalker organization, which is alleged to have targeted businesses and other institutions by encrypting data on their system and ransoming access to those contents.

It's also alleged that NetWalker could access and steal sensitive personal information about employees, clients or users.

The extradition case against Vachon-Desjardins is being heard in Gatineau, Que. He remains in custody.
The extradition case against Vachon-Desjardins is being heard in Gatineau, Que. He remains in custody.()

In the weeks before his arrest, Vachon-Desjardins had talked about travelling to Russia and transferred a large sum of bitcoin, the judge said.

Mandeville noted Russia was home to developers in the NetWalkers organization and does not have an extradition treaty with Canada.

Vachon-Desjardins was previously sentenced to 42 months in prison in June 2015 for drug trafficking.

While the FBI extradition request is related to businesses and academic institutions he allegedly targeted in the U.S. and France, the RCMP is currently investigating whether he had any Canadian targets, along with separate drug trafficking charges.

Mandeville said if he is found guilty of the charges he'd face in Florida, Vachon-Desjardins could be imprisoned for upwards of 11 years.

Vachon-Desjardins is next scheduled to make a court appearance on May 31.

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