Ilya Sachkov
Ilya Sachkov during his trial in Moscow on July 26, 2023. Image: Moscow courts / Telegram

Russia jails Group-IB co-founder for 14 years in treason case

The co-founder and former chief executive of one of the largest cybersecurity companies in Russia was found guilty of treason on Wednesday and sentenced to 14 years in a strict prison colony.

Ilya Sachkov, a 37-year-old founder of Group-IB, denied accusations of passing classified information to foreign intelligence and said he will appeal the Moscow court conviction. He listened to the verdict from a glass courtroom cage and nervously laughed when the sentence was announced.

Last week, Russian prosecutors requested an 18-year prison sentence for Sachkov. He later wrote on his Telegram channel that if he is convicted, “it will be one of the most successful operations of the American intelligence agencies and another planned blow to the Russian IT sector.”

Earlier in June, however, Sachkov accused one of Russia’s top Federal Security Service (FSB) officers of being behind his prosecution.

Sachkov was arrested in 2021 on top-secret charges. He was alleged to have provided the U.S. government with information about the Fancy Bear hacking group, which has ties to Russia's military intelligence, and its efforts to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Russia has repeatedly denied interfering in the U.S. election.

In a statement released on Wednesday, Group-IB said that the trial was “unreasonably rushed” and “held entirely behind closed doors.” Sachkov’s case materials remain classified, and all hearings were conducted without any public scrutiny.

The material evidence allegedly proving his guilt includes business cards from an FBI officer and a British Embassy employee in Russia, the Moscow court stated today.

Before Sachkov’s trial began at the beginning of July, he spent nearly two years in pre-trial detention. He was denied any means of communication, including calls, letters and visits, for several months.

Group-IB said its employees have “full confidence in Ilya’s innocence” and said that he was “wrongfully imprisoned.”

“We might never know the pretext for his conviction,” the company’s statement said. “We are dismayed and disheartened by this brutal and unfair punishment.”

Sachkov started Group-IB as a college student and transformed it from a small consulting firm into one of Russia’s largest cybersecurity companies. It employs hundreds of people and operates in 60 countries.

Group-IB moved its headquarters to Singapore in 2019 and exited the Russian market in April. The Russian business was sold to local management and is now operating under a new brand, F.A.C.C.T. Reports have said Sachkov is part owner of the company.

Even while in pre-trial detention, Sachkov said that he intends to build his business only in Russia. “It is difficult, but interesting,” he told Russian Forbes.

Correction: A previous version of this story misstated when Group-IB moved its headquarters to Singapore.

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Daryna Antoniuk

Daryna Antoniuk

is a reporter for Recorded Future News based in Ukraine. She writes about cybersecurity startups, cyberattacks in Eastern Europe and the state of the cyberwar between Ukraine and Russia. She previously was a tech reporter for Forbes Ukraine. Her work has also been published at Sifted, The Kyiv Independent and The Kyiv Post.