Malware vendor files appeal against US extradition after change of heart

27-year-old Daniel Meli files appeal against his extradition to United States, which he had initially consented to, to face charges of selling RAT malware

Daniel Meli has appealed an extradition that he first consented to
Daniel Meli has appealed an extradition that he first consented to

A Maltese man who earlier this month consented to being extradited to the United States to face charges of selling powerful spyware online, remains in Malta, having filed an appeal after an apparent change of heart.

Daniel Meli, 27, of Zabbar, Malta, was arrested on February 7 in an operation that had been coordinated by the Malta Police Force and the Office of the Attorney General of Malta, with the support of the FBI and Justice Department.

Malta hacker gave discount code to covert FBI operator 

Meli’s extradition was requested by the Northern District of Georgia after he was indicted in December 2023, for computer access, damage and interception-related offences. US prosecutors accuse Meli of having offered malware products and services, amongst them the Pegasus remote access trojan (RAT), for sale to cybercriminals through online computer-hacking forums “since at least 2012.”

He had been arraigned on February 9 and had given his consent to the extradition request during that sitting.

But it appears that Meli subsequently changed his lawyer and filed an appeal through his new counsel: lawyers Arthur Azzopardi and Marion Camilleri. 

Mr Justice Neville Camilleri is expected to deliver judgement on Meli’s appeal next week.

Meli is believed to have been selling the malware online since 2012, but the end of the road soon came in February 2022 when he sold a RAT for $180 in Bitcoin to an FBI online covert employee from Georgia. From then onwards, the FBI was tracking his operations, one of several in a global anti-cybercrime investigation that spread as far as Australia. 

Meli now faces eight counts of criminal conspiracy in a district court in Georgia that could see him face several years in prison inside the notorious American incarceration system. 

It is alleged that after tricking victims into installing the malware on their computers via email attachments or fake links, criminals could then browse file systems, record keystrokes, steal usernames and passwords, and access web cameras. The AFP, the US Federal Bureau of Investigation and Europol were among a number of international police forces to have worked together on Meli’s arrest. 

Separately, another man, Prince Onyeoziri Odinakachi, 31, was arrested in Nigeria, also on 7 February. He is alleged to have provided online customer support to individuals who purchased and used the Warzone malware from June 2019. 

The charges Meli will face in America are conspiracy, obtaining unauthorised access to protected computers to obtain information, illegally selling an interception device, and illegally advertising an interception device, each provide for a sentence of up to five years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of $250,000, or twice the gross gain or loss, whichever is greater. The charge of causing unauthorised damage to protected computers provides for a sentence of up to 10 years in prison, three years of supervised release, and a fine of $250,000, or twice the gross gain or loss, whichever is greater.