Russian Businesses React With Shock as Cybersecurity Expert Charged With Treason

Authorities in Russia arrested the head of a leading cybersecurity company for high treason, the fallout from which has been shock and awe through the Russian business community.

Ilya Sachkov, the chief executive officer and founder of the Group-IB, a leading cybersecurity company in Russia, was placed in custody by a court in Moscow on Wednesday. He will remain in detention for two months until the pending investigation and trial.

No further details were provided by the court regarding the case, and the case files are classified, according to the Interfax news agency. Treason cases in Russia are usually sealed.

Sachkov is one of many people across Russian society to be arrested for vague treason allegations in recent years, including scientists, soldiers, officials and a former journalist. If convicted, state treason charges could result in up to 20 years in jail for Sachkov.

Group IB deals with major clients like banks, energy companies, telecom firms and Interpol investigating high-tech crimes and fraud.

Putin Lies
The Russian business community has reacted with shock to the arrest of Ilya Sachkov, the CEO and founder of the Group-IB. Above, a protester holds a placard reading "Putin lies" during an opposition rally in central Moscow, on March 10, 2019, to demand internet freedom in Russia. ALEXANDER NEMENOV/AFP/Getty Images

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

According to Russian media reports, Sachkov was arrested on Tuesday morning and the law enforcement raided the offices of Group-IB in Moscow. The company on Wednesday confirmed that the raid took place.

In a statement Wednesday, Group-IB said the company's employees were "sure" of their boss's innocence and "honest business reputation." The company refused to comment on the accusations against Sachkov or details of the case, citing ongoing legal proceedings.

Russia's state news agency Tass reported, citing anonymous sources, that Sachkov also insisted on his innocence. The agency's source alleged that Sachkov "worked for foreign intelligence services and passed on cybersecurity data that constitutes a state secret."

Sachkov's arrest on treason charges surprised many. Russia's business ombudsman Boris Titov demanded that investigators "explain themselves," "given the caliber and the uniqueness of entrepreneur Sachkov for Russia's entire IT industry."

If the authorities don't explain their case against Sachkov, "a critical blow will be delivered to the sector and its investment appeal," Titov said.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov argued Wednesday that Sachkov's case "has nothing to do with (Russia's) business or investment climate," because "accusations (against him) are not connected to the economy, they are connected to treason."

Group-IB specializes in combating cyberattacks, online fraud and investigating high-tech cyber crimes. Top Russian banks and companies, including state-run ones, are among the company's clients.

Group-IB helped Russian authorities investigate cyberfraud cases and is also said to be an official partner of the Interpol and Europol.