In a case that has drawn significant attention, Group-IB Co-founder Ilya Sachkov was convicted of treason by a Russian court and sentenced to 14 years in prison.
The charges against the prominent Russian cybersecurity executive revolve around accusations of passing classified information to foreign intelligence agencies, reported state news agency TASS.
Ilya Sachkov, aged 37, was a co-founder of Group-IB, a well-known cybersecurity firm in Russia.
Earlier this year, Group-IB announced that it had severed ties with its original market. Though Sachkov is no longer associated with the company, he still holds a share in its former Russian business.
Arrest and conviction of Group-IB Co-founder Ilya Sachkov
Group-IB Co-founder Ilya Sachkov being convicted of treason is the latest in a series of events that unfolded in 2021.
His arrest took place in September 2021 by Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB), and the details of the case have been kept classified.
Throughout the trial, Sachkov maintained his innocence, and he listened calmly as the verdict was delivered from a glass courtroom cage, said the TASS report.
His lawyer, Sergei Afanasiev, expressed disappointment in the outcome, stating that he believed enough evidence had been presented to prove Sachkov’s innocence, Reuters reported.
Despite the conviction, the legal team intends to appeal the verdict and seek intervention from President Vladimir Putin.
Former colleagues who purchased Group-IB’s Russian business and renamed it F.A.C.C.T also voiced support for Sachkov, said the Reuters report.
They plan to request President Putin’s intervention in the case and have informed that Sachkov has been ordered to serve his sentence in a high-security penal colony.
Group-IB officially declared its unwavering support for Ilya Sachkov.
“Since day one, we have had full confidence in Ilya’s innocence,” said the company announcement.
“While he remains wrongfully imprisoned, we will continue to stand up against injustice and operate our business with the same mission in mind – to fight against cybercrime. This very mission was crafted by Ilya and has been at the heart of the company since it was founded in 2003.”
Ilya Sachkov: From poster boy to persona non grata
Sachkov’s troubles seem to have started a year before his arrest when he made a speech at an event attended by Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin.
During this speech, which was broadcasted on state TV, Sachkov criticized the authorities for not taking action against a well-known Russian criminal hacker and raised concerns about the appointment of a former spy to oversee the export of advanced technologies.
He also accused Putin’s cybersecurity envoy of making controversial statements.
Before his arrest, Ilya Sachkov was highly regarded as one of Russia’s most promising businessmen.
Forbes listed Sachkov in 2016 among the most prominent entrepreneurs under 30.
Prior to his arrest, he held the position of an associate professor at Bauman Moscow State Technical University.
Sachkov was a distinguished member of expert committees at both the State Duma (the lower house of the Russian parliament) and the Russian Foreign Ministry.
He had even met President Putin in the Kremlin in February 2019 after receiving an award for young entrepreneurs.
“Ilya Sachkov, Director General and co-founder of the company Group-IB, has won the prize in the Innovative Breakthrough category for projects aimed at detecting and preventing cyber threats,” said the official Kremlin announcement of the meeting.
Treason charges have become increasingly prevalent in Russia in recent years, affecting a wide range of individuals, including scientists, soldiers, officials, and a former journalist. The conviction of Sachkov adds another high-profile case to this trend.
Sachkov’s supporters, some of whom were present at the court wearing black T-shirts bearing his portrait, have remained steadfast in their belief in his innocence. Despite the conviction, they continue to stand by him, hoping for his release and rehabilitation.