Four years ago, the U.S. Government shut down the popular torrent site KickassTorrents following a criminal investigation. Alleged founder Artem Vaulin was arrested in Poland where he was released on bail while fighting an extradition request from the U.S. That process has now been brought to a halt after Vaulin skipped bail and left the country.
During the summer of 2016, Polish law enforcement officers arrested Artem Vaulin, the alleged founder of KickassTorrents.
The then 30-year-old Ukrainian was apprehended at a local airport. He was later taken into custody and around the same time the infamous torrent site went dark.
Criminal Prosecution of KickassTorrents
The arrest was part of a U.S. criminal case which also listed two other men as key players. At the time, KickassTorrents (KAT) was the most-used torrent site around, so the authorities couldn’t have hit a more prominent target.
The criminal case meant the end of the torrent site, but also the start of a slowly progressing legal battle for the defendants. After being held in a Polish prison cell for nearly ten months, Vaulin was released on bail in 2017.
He soon moved to a rented apartment in Warsaw where he enjoyed relative freedom and, most importantly, the company of his wife and son. Meanwhile, the extradition proceedings continued.
Four years on, the case remains pending without any significant progress. There was an early court decision which held that the alleged KAT operator can be extradited, but that decision had yet to be confirmed. Based on new developments, it’s unclear whether that final decision will ever come.
Alleged KAT Founder Skips Bail
According to new information received by TorrentFreak, Vaulin is no longer in Poland. This was confirmed by United States Attorney John R. Lausch Jr., who just informed the federal court in Illinois that their suspect is ‘missing.’
“According to information recently received from the Polish Ministry of Justice, defendant Artem Vaulin has left Poland in violation of his release conditions, and his current whereabouts are unknown,” Lausch writes in a brief status update.
The release was not without conditions. Vaulin was not allowed to leave the country, for example, and was under police supervision. However, according to the authorities, these conditions were violated recently and the $108,000 bail was forfeited.
“According to the Polish Ministry of Justice, however, Vaulin has left the country and his bail was forfeited by the District Court in Warsaw on August 26, 2020. As such, extradition proceedings in Poland are no longer continuing,” the US Attorney adds.
Vaulin’s Legal Team Withdraws
We reached out to Val Gurvits of Boston Law Group, one of the attorneys who represented Vaulin in the US case. Gurvits said that he was just informed of these new developments by the US Government. His team hasn’t heard from Vaulin.
“We are not in touch with Mr. Vaulin and we will be withdrawing from the case,” Gurvits tells us.
It’s not clear why Vaulin left Poland or where he is now. However, based on this new information, it is not unlikely that the criminal prosecution in the US may never start. Without defendants, it can’t continue.
In addition to Vaulin, the US Government also indicted two other Ukrainian men in the KickassTorrents conspiracy. These defendants, Oleksandr Radostin and Ievgen Kutsenko, remain at large after four years.
Many thanks to TorrentFreak for the breaking news.