Russian cybersecurity firm boss arrested on ‘high treason’ charges in secret police raid after allegedly spying for foreign nation

Russian cybersecurity firm boss arrested on ‘high treason’ charges in secret police raid after allegedly spying for foreign nation

The founder and CEO of Russia’s Group-IB digital security firm has been detained by authorities and charged with high treason, reportedly for passing on secret information to foreign spies in yet another cloak and dagger drama.

On Wednesday, a Moscow court ordered that Ilya Sachkov can be detained in custody for two months while prosecutors prepare a case against him. Details related to the arrest of the 35-year-old entrepreneur are classified, with the court saying only that he has been held over allegations of high treason.

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However, an anonymous security source told TASS that Sachkov is suspected of passing on secret information to foreign intelligence services. The tech firm chief is said to have denied all the accusations.

Group-IB is a cybersecurity startup launched by Sachkov back in 2003 when he was just 17. The company landed him a spot on Forbes magazine’s ‘30 under 30’ list of high-tech entrepreneurs in 2016. The company provides cybersecurity and copyright protection solutions worldwide, and is understood to have secured several contracts with the Russian state.

The firm acknowledged the arrest of its founder, confirming that law enforcement raided its Moscow office a day before. Leadership of the company has been temporarily transferred to its co-founder, Dmitry Volkov, Group-IB said in a statement.

“All the employees are confident in their boss’ innocence and honest business reputation,” the company added.

A Group-IB executive was previously implicated by American investigators in a supposed plot to sell off a database of hacked usernames and passwords in 2012. Then the head of network security for the company, Nikita Kislitsin, was indicted in the US and a document declassified last year by the FBI alleged that Sachkov had supported Kislitsin co-operating with investigators.

The high-profile arrest has prompted fears that it could damage the country’s reputation as a business destination. For that reason, Russia’s business ombudsman, Boris Titov urged the investigators to make more details about the case public.

“It is necessary for investigators to explain themselves. Otherwise the sector and its investment attractiveness will be dealt a critical blow,” Titov said on Facebook.

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However, asked whether the incident could harm Russia’s thriving IT sector, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov brushed aside the fears, insisting the case against Sachkov was purely about national security.

“This has nothing to do with the business and investment climate in our country, as you can see that the charges are not related to the economy, but are related to high treason,” Peskov said.

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