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Zeus court hearing delayed by snow

An international computer fraud ring had its court hearing delayed by snow and administrative confusion yesterday.

Croydon Crown Court was meant to hear the pleas of 10 people arrested in September for their part in an alleged international fraud ring that used the Zeus botnet to steal people's personal details and hack into their bank accounts.

An official at the Court said one of the defendants had asked for the hearing to be postponed because they were snowed in.

Yuriy Korovalenko, a 28-year-old Ukrainian web designer from Chingford in Essex, was snowed in at Highdown Prison in Surrey.

Another court official said: "Highdown prison wasn't making deliveries and pick-ups."

Karina Kostromina, described by police as a 33-year-old unemployed Latvian woman, also from Chingford in Essex, was at another prison. She made it to the dock. But the court was in confusion.

The official said the court had expected to take pleas from ten defendants and instead found itself presiding over the administration of legal aid to Korovalenko and Kostromina. The snow also prevented Court staff getting in this week. Kostromina asked to change her solicitor and was refused. The hearing was postponed until December 9th.

Police charged 11 of the 20 people it arrested over the Zeus fraud ring in September. US prosecutors said they were picked up in an international police operation that arrested 100 people. The plea hearing of ten of those charged had already been delayed and shunted from Westminster Magistrates and Southwark Crown Courts.

The Metropolitan Police, which had brought the charges, was unable to explain what had happened.

John Leahey, deputy governor of Highdown Prison, refused to confirm whether Korovalenko had been snowed in.