Exclusive: Has France thrown a French national to U.S. prosecutorial wolves? Pourquoi?

On May 31, with the cooperation of Moroccan authorities, the U.S. secured the detention of Sebastien Raoult. Raoult is a 21-year-old French national who had been vacationing in Morocco and was about to take a flight to Belgium. The U.S. alleges Raoult is a member of ShinyHunters.

While the U.S.’s interest in securing his arrest is understandable, what is not so understandable is why France never arrested Raoult while he was still on French soil. Because they failed to arrest him, he now faces extradition to the U.S. instead of being tried in France, where he would face a lighter sentence if convicted.

Because neither France nor the U.S. has answered DataBreaches’ questions about why France never arrested Raoult and why they haven’t sought his extradition to France, DataBreaches has decided to reveal more about the historical record of this case.

Background:

On May 31, Raoult was detained in Morocco on a “Red Notice” from Interpol requested by the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Washington State. Once Raoult was detained, the U.S. sought to have him extradited to stand trial on charges alleging his involvement in ShinyHunters. Raoult has been detained in a Moroccan jail since May 31 as the Moroccan government considers the U.S.’s application.

On August 8,  Morocco’s Court of Cassation issued a decision favorable to the U.S.’s application. As reported previously, that court does not issue the final decision whether to extradite Raoult or not. It just issued a favorable decision to the U.S.’s position and request.

Read the U.S. Affidavit in Support of Request for Extradition submitted to Morocco by the U.S. on June 10, 2022. This document was provided to DataBreaches and is shared publicly to help the public understand the extradition case in Morocco. Some of the exhibits appended to the affidavit submitted to Morocco’s court are linked later in this article.

Read the Morocco Court of Cassation’s Opinion of August 8 (Moroccan and French).

Of great significance legally, France has not sought to extradite Raoult to France despite repeated requests by Raoult’s family and his lawyer, Philippe Ohayon. France’s failure — or refusal — to seek his extradition has led some to question whether French justice has been subverted by secret cooperation between France and the U.S.

On the same day that Raoult was detained in Morocco, five other French nationals were arrested in France and taken into custody. They were questioned and ultimately released. On what basis did France arrest and take them into custody?  Was the FBI present at all of their interrogations? Did the FBI directly question the French nationals?

And importantly, why was no actual case or prosecution opened against any of these five after their arrests? Were their arrests and detention solely to ensure that they could not communicate with each other or Raoult until it was clear Morocco was going to hold him? Was it to intimidate the five into providing information on Raoult?

If France had sufficient grounds to arrest five other French nationals, including two people indicted with Raoult, they also had grounds to arrest him. Yet France never arrested Raoult and would later claim that they never even opened an investigation into him.

Back in 2020 and 2021…

Throughout 2020, 2021, and the first part of 2022, the United States sought France’s cooperation in investigating suspected members of the ShinyHunters group. As Philippe Ohayon wrote to the Keeper of the Seals (France’s Minister of Justice, Eric Dupont-Moretti) on August 8, there had been four criminal mutual assistance cases dated July 21, 2020, May 5, 2021, December 14, 2021, and May 16, 2022, under the Prosecutor’s Office number 22112001081 and instruction 22/21.

“It is obviously in fulfillment of the request of May 16, 2022, that the wave of arrests took place in France,” Ohayon wrote to the minister. Although Ohayon’s inference is logical and quite possibly correct, DataBreaches notes that this site has seen no evidence of the contents of the May 16, 2022 communication or France’s response to it.

But it is the prosecutor for Vosges, France who raises the most doubts about France’s actions concerning Raoult. When Ohayon sought to get France to extradite Raoult to France, the prosecutor for Vosges claimed that there was no basis as there was no case against Raoult and there was no investigation of him. And therein lies the basis for suspicion about what France has done and not done.

According to the indictment, Raoult is charged with:

Count 1: Conspiracy to commit computer fraud and abuse (computer hacking), in violation of Title 18, United States Code (U.S.C.), Sections (§§) 371 and 3559(g)(1), which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison;

Count 2: Conspiracy to commit wire fraud, in violation of 18 U, S.C. (§§) 1349 and 3559(g)(1), which carries a maximum penalty of 27 years in prison;

Counts 3-6: Wire fraud, and aiding and abetting, in violation of 18 U.S.C. (§§) 1343 and §2, which carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison for each count, and

Counts 7-9: Aggravated identity theft, and aiding and abetting, in violation of 18 U.S.C. (§§) 1028(a) and §2, which carries a maximum penalty of two years in prison for each count and which must run consecutively to any other punishments imposed.

The indictment describes, but does not name, eight victims that Raoult and two others were being indicted for harming via their alleged criminal behavior. One of the victims appears to be Microsoft, and other victims can be recognized by their descriptions that match up with known victims of ShinyHunters.

Importantly, both the affidavit supporting extradition and the indictment strongly suggest that many, if not most, overt acts and other activities allegedly conducted by Raoult were conducted while Raoult was on French soil.

So Raoult was indicted in the U.S. in June 2021 and an arrest warrant was signed by a magistrate judge the same day.  A “red notice” on him was issued in November 2021, months before he flew to Morocco. The U.S. and France had been cooperating since July 2020 about ShinyHunters including after the dates of the indictment, arrest warrant, and Red Notice.  So why had Raoult never been arrested in France before his departure to Morocco in February? Did the U.S. ever request his arrest in France or not?

Read the June 2021 Grand Jury Indictment of Raoult. The case is

CR21-109 RLS

Western District of Washington State
United States of America v.
Gabriel Kimiaie-Asadi Bildstein
Sebastien Raoult
Abdel-Hakim El Ahmadi

Read Raoult’s Arrest Warrant issued the same day as the indictment.

Read Excerpts of the Statutes Raoult is charged with violating.

These three files were exhibits attached to the Affidavit in Support of the Request for Extradition. They were provided to DataBreaches by Raoult’s family and are shared to help the public understand the charges against Raoult and why there are questions about France’s failure or refusal to request the extradition of Raoult to France.

France’s Motto and “The Sixth Man”

DataBreaches shamefully admits sleeping through many history classes as a young person but was always impressed with France’s motto of “Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité.” So what happened to the liberty, equality, and fraternity for Raoult, who, instead of being treated as the sixth French national arrested, appears to have been treated unequally by France?

In a press release on August 10, Ohayon wrote:

Au regard de la très intense coopération durant deux ans sur le territoire national entre services français et américains dans cette affaire, cet affichage de neutralité totale frôle le cynisme. Il serait souhaitable par conséquent que ces ministres cessent de se comporter en adversaire de Sébastien.

[In view of the very intense cooperation during two years on the national territory between French and American services in this case, this display of total neutrality borders on cynicism. It would therefore be desirable for these ministers to stop behaving like Sebastian’s opponent.]

Ohayon asks the Minister of Justice to investigate what France knew and what it did, and whether Raoult’s constitutional rights as a French national have been violated. He does not seek Raoult’s freedom. He seeks to enforce the right of his client to be tried in France like the other five nationals would be tried if cases had been opened against them..

To try Raoult in the U.S. would deprive him of his family support both for the lengthy pre-trial period and for any time in prison. To try him in the U.S. would require him to defend himself in a second language (English) and, importantly, would deprive him of access to the others who would rightfully be co-defendants in France or those who could be witnesses in his defense. To try Raoult in the U.S. would also deprive him of the opportunity to be held to the same sentencing guidelines as any other defendants tried for the same charges on French soil.

Instead of Raoult being recognized as “the sixth man,” he is being treated differently. How do we explain that someone who appears to have had a minor role is being treated more harshly than others who had prior criminal histories and yet were released with no criminal prosecution? Is France turning its back on its citizen to help the U.S.?

The Questions the U.S. Hasn’t Answered

DataBreaches sought information from the U.S. Attorney’s Office of Washington State, Western District, about the case but would not answer any questions or provide any information.  DataBreaches then sent inquiries to the main press office for the U.S. Department of Justice. Here is the substance of the questions posed to the DOJ:

1. Did the U.S. ever ask France to arrest Raoult? If not, why not? And if they did, why did France not cooperate?
2. Did the U.S. ask France to arrest the other five nationals on May 31 or any other date to coincide with the detention of Raoult in Morocco?
3. Did the U.S. ask France to prosecute the other five nationals or merely take them into custody but not open any prosecution?
4. The U.S. indicted Raoult in June 2021, and an arrest warrant was issued then. Why did the U.S. wait until May 31, 2022, to have him detained in Morocco? Why didn’t they arrest him when he first left France in February 2022?

The Department of Justice did not answer any of the questions or acknowledge the inquiries.

The Questions France Has Not Answered

A confidentiality agreement in the mutual assistance treaty allows the parties (the requesting state and the requested state) to keep things secret. But there is also a provision under Article 14(4) that reads:

Nothing in this Article shall preclude the use or disclosure of information or evidence to the extent that an obligation exists, for the United States under its Constitution or for France under its Constitution and general principles of its law having Constitutional value, to do so in a criminal proceeding. To the extent possible, the Requesting State shall notify the Requested State in advance of any such use or disclosure.

DataBreaches is not a lawyer, but the plain language of the provision seems to indicate that if France has a constitutional obligation, it can use or disclose information or evidence. If this interpretation has merit, then the Minister of Justice should review what France learned about Raoult from the U.S., what France discovered via any investigation it did on the U.S.’s behalf (e.g., such as investigations of IP addresses), and whether France had grounds to formally investigate and arrest Raoult as it did with five other nationals.

The Minister of Justice should also investigate why the five nationals have no prosecution/case against them. Was France asked to delay opening a case so that Raoult could not argue he should be tried in France with accused co-conspirators?

On August 12, DataBreaches submitted the following questions to France’s  Minister of Justice:

1. Did the U.S. ever ask France to investigate Raoult as a suspected
member of ShinyHunters or Gnostic Players or to assist the U.S. in its
investigation of Raoult? If so, did France investigate and find evidence supporting the suspicion of Raoult as a criminal?
2. Did the U.S. ever ask France to arrest Raoult? If they did, why
didn’t France cooperate?
3. Did the U.S. ask France to arrest the other five French nationals
on May 31 or any other date to coincide with the detention of Raoult
in Morocco?
4. Did the U.S. ever ask France to open actual cases or prosecutions
against the other five nationals?
5. Did the U.S. ask France *not* to open prosecutions against the
other five nationals or to delay opening any prosecutions?
6. If France took the other five nationals into custody on suspicion
of being members of ShinyHunters, France must have known about Raoult, too. Anything else would be unbelievable. So why won’t France try to extradite Raoult so he can stand trial in France? Does France intend
to let five people get off free while one of its citizens, who is no more guilty than the others, gets sent to the U.S. for a harsh sentence?

Please explain why Raoult has been treated differently by France then
the other five and what France intends to do now.

No reply has been received by publication time.

A Father’s Heart

Paul Raoult has been trying to get the French government to treat his son fairly by having him stand trial in France to face any accusations.  In a letter to the Minister of Justice on August 6, he wrote, in part:

Depuis la naissance de Sébastien, mon épouse et moi-même l’avons toujours choyé, éduqué, accompagné et soutenu dans ses expériences de la vie. Comme tout parent, il est tout pour nous. Absolument tout.

Je crois en son innocence, et vous savez en tant qu’avocat qu’il existe des innocents en prison. Et même s’il était coupable, un petit peu ou totalement, je n’en sais rien, qu’a-t-il fait pour que la justice de son pays le piège comme cela pour offrir sa tête à une puissance étrangère ?”

In machine translation:

Since the birth of Sebastian, my wife and I have always pampered, educated, accompanied and supported him in his life experiences. Like any parent, he is everything to us. Absolutely everything.

I believe in his innocence, and you know as a lawyer that there are innocent people in prison. And even if he was guilty a little bit or totally, I don’t know, what has he done for the justice of his country trap like this to offer his head to a foreign power?

Raoult’s parents and his lawyer urge France to seek his extradition to France. They are not asking France to do Raoult any favors. They simply ask France to respect and enforce Raoult’s rights as a French national. That’s not too much to ask for.

About the author: Dissent

2 comments to “Exclusive: Has France thrown a French national to U.S. prosecutorial wolves? Pourquoi?”

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  1. Justin Shafer - August 15, 2022

    Okay wait, who is Vosges?

    • Dissent - August 15, 2022

      Vosges, France.

      Edited post to make that clearer.

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