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Morocco court approves extradition of Frenchman to the US

Paul Raoult, 63, the father of detained Sebastien Raoult, shows a phone bearing a portrait of his son in Epinal, eastern France, on August 1, 2022. - Morocco has detained Sebastien Raoult, a 21-year-old French national wanted by the US for alleged involvement in cybercrime, a police source in the kingdom told AFP on July 29, 2022, confirming media reports. Sebastien Raoult was taken in for questioning on May 31 at the Rabat-Sale airport in relation with an Interpol red notice over a cyber-piracy case. (Photo by Jean-Christophe Verhaegen / AFP) (Photo by JEAN-CHRISTOPHE VERHAEGEN/AFP via Getty Images)
Paul Raoult, 63, the father of detained Sebastien Raoult, shows a phone bearing a portrait of his son in Epinal, eastern France, on August 1, 2022 [JEAN-CHRISTOPHE VERHAEGEN/AFP via Getty Images]

The Supreme Court of Morocco approved the deportation of French citizen Sebastien Raoult to the United States, where he is wanted in a case of computer hacking. His family is demanding he be repatriated to France.

The decision stated that the Criminal Chamber of the Court of Cassation (Supreme Court) in Rabat is "approving the extradition of the wanted Sebastian Raoult to the judicial authorities of the United States of America who demanded him."

A Moroccan source close to the file explained that "the court's decision remains an opinion of approval and not an extradition order, as its implementation is up to the Moroccan government."

The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, explained that "the implementation of the deportation would be following a decision by the prime minister, based on advice from a specialised committee that includes representatives of the ministries of justice and foreign affairs."

Moroccan police arrested 21-year-old Raoult on 31 May upon his arrival at Rabat-Salé Airport from France, where he was being pursued by the International Police (Interpol) at the request of the American judiciary.

The FBI suspects Raoult belongs to a hacker group called "Chinese Hunters", whose members are accused of committing "profitable" hacking operations targeting companies including Microsoft.

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The US authorities are demanding his extradition, accusing him of involvement in a "conspiracy of electronic fraud", "electronic scam" and "serious identity theft", according to the French magazine Le Nouvel Observateur, which revealed the news of his arrest.

However, his lawyer, Philip Ohayon, is calling for his deportation to France to be prosecuted based on an "investigation opened by the French judiciary" and not the American one. Raoult's defence is based on the fact that "he lived only in France and Morocco, and if there was piracy, it took place from France."

Ohayon said on Tuesday that the decision of the Moroccan Court of Cassation "increases our determination to obtain a decision to extradite Sebastien Raoult to France."

"We consider that France has abandoned him," he added.

However, French Minister of Justice Eric Dupont-Moretti said last week that "there is no possibility of interfering now in the case that currently belongs to the Moroccan judiciary, based on a petition from its American counterpart."

If convicted by the US judiciary, Raoult could face a sentence of up to 116 years in prison, according to Le Nouvel Observateur.

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