Group-IB CEO Ilya Sachkov charged with treason in Russia

Ilya Sachkov, the founder of the Russian cybersecurity company Group-IB, has been arrested by Russian intelligence. The chief executive was arrested on Tuesday on suspicion of high treason. A Moscow court ruled on Tuesday that Sachkov can be detained until November 27.

Sachkov says he is innocent

The Russian authorities suspect that Sachkov passed on confidential information to foreign intelligence services. He denies the allegations and says he is innocent. “He does not admit that he was guilty of high treason, which caused reputational and national damage to Russian interests, or that he cooperated with intelligence services of foreign states,” an unnamed source told the Russian news agency.

Russian media report that law enforcement agencies searched Group-IB’s office on Tuesday. According to a press release released by office employees, officers left the property that same evening. It is unknown whether they seized documents or data carriers. The company did say that client data is safe.

‘Sachkov is innocent and with integrity

Group-IB is an internationally operating cybersecurity company engaged in the prevention of cyberattacks, identity theft and other digital crimes. Banks, energy companies and internet service providers are among the clientele of Group-IB.

In a press statement, the security company says it has every confidence that Sachkov is an innocent and honest man. The communications department says it will not comment further on the chief executive’s arrest. Sachkov’s work will be observed in the near future by his colleague Dmitry Volkov.

If the Russian court finds Sachkov guilty of high treason, he could face up to 20 years in prison. According to RTL Nieuws, numerous Russian scientists, military personnel, government officials and businessmen have been accused of treason for passing on confidential information abroad. Roeslan Stojanov, a former employee of antivirus company Kaspersky, was sentenced to 14 years in prison in 2019. Sergei Mikhailov, a former employee of the Russian secret service FSB, was sentenced to 22 years in prison.

AIVD unmasks Russian spies

Such matters are rarely made public, ostensibly because they contain classified and other sensitive information, or because they could seriously embarrass countries or agencies. In exceptional cases, the General Intelligence and Security Service (AIVD) announced at the end of last year that it had unmasked two Russian spies and had deported the country. They pretended to be accredited diplomats, but in reality, they worked for the Russian intelligence service SVR. The spies tried to obtain sensitive information about artificial intelligence, semiconductors and nanotechnology, but ultimately fell through the cracks.

“As the AIVD, we are committed to limiting and where possible preventing damage to the economy and national security caused by espionage,” said AIVD director Erik Akerboom about the issue. “We protect the strategic interests of the Netherlands by gathering intelligence that exposes this form of espionage. This allows us to disrupt the espionage, as we have done in this case. We also make our society aware of the risks of espionage and explain to companies, governments and educational institutions how they can prevent this.”

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