Russian court jails cyber security executive for 14 years in treason case

  • Ilya Sachkov was arrested in 2021; accused of treason
  • Had ruffled official feathers a year before with speech
  • Sachkov says he is innocent and a patriot

MOSCOW, July 26 (Reuters) – A Russian court on Wednesday convicted a top cyber security executive of treason and jailed him for 14 years in a case that state news agency TASS said centred on allegations he had passed classified information to foreign spies.

Ilya Sachkov, who denied wrongdoing and calmly listened to the verdict in a glass courtroom cage, helped found Group-IB, once one of Russia’s most prominent cybersecurity firms which this year announced it had cut ties with its original market.

Sachkov, 37, who is no longer associated with Group-IB but owns a share in its former Russian business, was arrested in September 2021 by Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) on treason charges in a case that is classified.

Sachkov’s lawyer told reporters he had been hoping his client would be acquitted because he thought sufficient evidence of his innocence had been presented.

“We’re not giving up. We believe …in Ilya’s innocence, and we’ll appeal further and work further,” the lawyer, Sergei Afanasiev, said.

Former colleagues who bought Group-IB’s Russian business and renamed it F.A.C.C.T said in a statement that his legal team would also ask President Vladimir Putin to intervene.

Sachkov had been ordered to serve out his sentence in a high-security penal colony, they said.

“Employees have taken what has happened calmly, they continue to support Ilya and hope he will be released and rehabilitated,” the statement said.

“This is a hard moment for all of us and a black day for the (Russian) cybersecurity market.”

Some of his supporters, wearing black T-shirts bearing his portrait, were at the court to hear the verdict.

At the time of his arrest, Group-IB focused on investigating high-tech crimes and online fraud in Russia and elsewhere.

Sachkov had ruffled official feathers a year before his arrest at an event attended by Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin.

In a speech at the event shown on state TV, Sachkov accused authorities of allowing a prominent Russian criminal hacker to go about his business unimpeded, criticised the appointment of someone he said was a former spy to a body overseeing the export of advanced technologies, and accused Putin’s cybersecurity envoy of making toxic statements.

Lauded as one of Russia’s most promising businessmen before his detention, Sachkov had met Putin in the Kremlin in 2019 after winning a prize for young entrepreneurs.

Sachkov is the latest in a long line of people, including scientists, soldiers, officials and a former journalist, to face treason charges in Russia in recent years.

Reporting by Andrew Osborn; Editing by William Maclean and John Stonestreet

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As Russia Chief Political Correspondent, and former Moscow bureau chief, Andrew helps lead coverage of the world’s largest country, whose political, economic and social transformation under President Vladimir Putin he has reported on for much of the last two decades, along with its growing confrontation with the West and wars in Georgia and Ukraine. Andrew was part of a Wall Street Journal reporting team short-listed for a Pulitzer Prize for international reporting. He has also reported from Moscow for two British newspapers, The Telegraph and The Independent.