The virtual bail hearing of a Bradford-based man charged in connection with what U.S. investigators describe as one of the most destructive ransomware variants in the world came to an abrupt end Thursday before it even started.
Ontario Superior Court Justice Laura Bird declared material was filed with the court so late that she was unable to access it and the case, therefore, could not proceed.
“I still don’t have the Crown’s material because, at the best, the trial co-ordinator would have received them this morning,” she said, indicating the information was filed with the court the previous evening after the end of the workday.
“I have no idea when you thought I’d have the opportunity to read that material,” the judge said, addressing the federal Crown attorney.
Mikhail Vasiliev, appearing in the Barrie courtroom via a video feed from the Toronto South Detention Centre, will return to court Dec. 20.
The 33-year-old man was charged following a raid at a Bradford home resulting from a two-and-a-half-year probe into the LockBit ransomware group, which the U.S. government said has harmed American victims and around the world.
The OPP announced in a news release last month that investigators had seized evidence related to the cross-border ransomware investigation, as well as two prohibited firearms during the raid.
In its own news release issued the same day, the U.S. Department of Justice announced Vasiliev, described as a dual Russian and Canadian national, was charged in connection with the LockBit global ransomware campaign. There was no reference to anyone else implicated in the scheme.
The U.S. Department of Justice wants Vasiliev extradited.
Vasiliev, meanwhile, is seeking bail as he awaits an extradition hearing.
LockBit was described in the American release referring to court documents as a ransomware variant that first appeared around January 2020, becoming “one of the most active and destructive ransomware variants in the world.”
Its “members” are accused of making at least $100 million in ransom demands, extracting tens of millions of dollars in ransom payments from up to 1,000 victims.
Vasiliev has been charged in the U.S. with conspiracy to intentionally damage protected computers and to transmit ransom demands in connection with the LockBit and could face up to five years in prison, if convicted.
The investigation, launched around March 2020, was conducted by the FBI Newark Field Office, Newark Cyber Crimes Task Force, with assistance from the FBI Atlanta Field Office, the FBI Pittsburgh Field Office, the FBI Miami Field Office, the FBI’s Legal Attaché-Ottawa, the Jersey City Police Department, the New Jersey State Police, and the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness.
Vasiliev also faces weapons charges in Ontario and was scheduled to appear in Orillia court Dec. 6.