HAMILTON, ONTARIO - A Canadian man accused in a massive hack of Yahoo emails has alleged ties to Russian agents and access to significant amounts of cash, making him a serious flight risk if freed on bail, a prosecutor said Tuesday.
Karim Baratov, 22, was arrested last month and faces extradition to the U.S. He was indicted in the United States for computer hacking along with three other people, including two alleged Russian intelligence agents.
Officials have said Baratov has the money to leave Canada and the ability to destroy evidence while on the run.
"The evidence of Mr. Baratov's connections to Russian officials exponentially elevate the flight risk in this case,’’ Prosecutor Heather Graham said.
Graham noted Baratov owned a number of luxury cars and flaunted his lifestyle on social media. She also said he has webmail and PayPal accounts with "large unknown sums of money" accessible anywhere. Graham said police seized about $22,000 ($30,000 Canadian) cash from his home and another $670 ($900 Canadian) from his wallet when he was arrested.
She also said there is evidence Baratov may have been trafficking in identity information. And there are allegations he continued hacking while on vacation in Jamaica.
Graham also noted Baratov faces up to 20 years in a U.S. prison.
Baratov's parents have agreed to act as their son's sureties. The young man's attorney Deepak Paradkar said Tuesday that Baratov will never be alone because his father, Akhmet Tokbergenov, works at home. The father has agreed to turn off the internet in the family home if the court requests.
The breach at Yahoo affected at least a half billion user accounts, but Paradkar said Baratov is only accused of hacking 80 accounts.
In a scheme that prosecutors say blended intelligence gathering with old-fashioned financial greed, the four men targeted the email accounts of Russian and U.S. government officials, Russian journalists and employees of financial services and other private businesses, American officials said.
In some cases using a technique known as "spear-phishing" to dupe Yahoo users into thinking they were receiving legitimate emails, the hackers broke into at least 500 million accounts in search of personal information and financial data such as gift card and credit card numbers, prosecutors said.
The case, announced amid continued U.S. intelligence agency skepticism of their Russian counterparts, comes as American authorities investigate Russian interference through hacking in the 2016 presidential election. Officials said those investigations are separate.
Justice Alan Whitten has said he'll reach a bail decision Tuesday.