Two men from Kazakstan were arrested in London on charges that they tried to extort $200,000 from Bloomberg LP after breaking into the company’s computer system, authorities said.
Federal prosecutors and the FBI said Michael Bloomberg, founder of the financial news and information company, played a central role in capturing the men.
Oleg Zezov, 27, who worked for a company that produced database services for Bloomberg, and Igor Yarimaka, 37, were arrested after Bloomberg appeared to comply with their monetary demands to learn how they had gained access to the company’s computer system, authorities said in a statement.
Bloomberg convinced the pair to meet him in London after Zezov sent him e-mail messages and demanded Bloomberg deposit $200,000 into an offshore account, authorities said.
Bloomberg, accompanied by two London Metropolitan police officers — one posing as a company executive and the other serving as a translator — met the men Thursday in London, they said.
The suspects allegedly repeated their demands at the meeting and were arrested afterward. They were held without bail after appearing Friday before a British magistrate in London.
Prosecutors said they did not know if the men had lawyers.
But in court documents, Yarimaka, who said he was a former prosecutor in Kazakstan, said they had not committed any crimes but were trying to get paid for showing that Bloomberg’s computer security system was inept.
In a statement, the New York-based company said investigators had gathered information over “many months with Bloomberg’s assistance.”
Fighting 21st Century Crime
Bloomberg LP spokeswoman Chris Taylor declined to comment beyond the statement, except to reassure customers that the pair’s claim to have broken into its system did not mean the company was unusually vulnerable to sabotage.
Barry W. Mawn, assistant director in charge of the FBI’s New York office, said the participation of Michael Bloomberg was an example of how U.S. businesses and international law enforcement partners could fight “21st century crime.”
“This investigation and these charges should dispel the notion that using a computer to commit criminal acts literally a world away from one’s victim provides a zone of safety from law enforcement scrutiny,” said Mawn.
Prosecutors said they will seek to extradite the pair to the United States, where charges in a criminal complaint carry potential penalties of more than 20 years in prison and hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines.