He refused to meet business associates in person and never talked on the phone, preferring instead to communicate via encrypted messaging services. But the elaborate precautions taken by the Russian computer spam kingpin known as Peter Severa appear to have failed him. Acting on an F.B.I. request, the police in Spain arrested a man this weekend named Peter Levashov, according to Russian news media reports and Reuters, citing a Russian Embassy spokesman in Madrid. Western cybersecurity researchers have identified Mr. Levashov as Peter Severa, though some doubt he is the same person. The initial reports in Russian news media of Mr. Levashov’s arrest did not say if he was suspected by United States intelligence agencies of being involved in attempts by Russian government hackers to meddle in the 2016 American presidential election. The American intelligence agencies have said Russian hackers broke into the servers of the Democratic National Committee and the email of Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman and released documents in an effort to sway the election toward Donald J. Trump.
But computer researchers who have linked the long-running computer spam business of the man known as Peter Severa to malware used in 2012 to influence a domestic election in Russia say his arrest could give other investigations important information.
Mr. Levashov was arrested in Barcelona, where he had been vacationing with his family, according to a report on RT, a state-owned Russian television network. The report cited his wife, who said the Spanish police had detained Mr. Levashov at the request of the American authorities.