HAMILTON — The father of a Canadian man accused in a massive hack of Yahoo emails told an Ontario court Wednesday that he’d keep all electronic devices locked away and out of his son’s reach if his child is released on bail.
Akhmet Tokbergenov was testifying in a Hamilton courtroom at his son’s bail hearing, saying he and his wife were prepared to do whatever the court orders if their 22-year-old is released from custody and allowed to live with them.
Karim Baratov was arrested under the Extradition Act last month after U.S. authorities indicted him and three others — two of them allegedly officers of Russia’s Federal Security Service — for computer hacking, economic espionage and other crimes.
American authorities have alleged in court documents that Baratov, who was born in Kazakhstan, poses an “extremely high flight risk” in part due to his alleged ties to Russian intelligence agents and his financial resources. They’ve also noted that Baratov did not appear to have any “legitimate employment.”
Baratov’s lawyer has called the allegations against his client unfounded. He’s seeking to have the young man released on bail as he awaits an extradition hearing, arguing his client poses no flight risk.
Baratov’s father told the court he has no doubt his son will comply with any bail conditions.
“I had an opportunity to speak with Karim when he was in jail,” Tokbergenov said through a translator. “He recognizes that he has to follow all the orders given by the court, he recognizes that (if he doesn’t), not only will we lose our assets, all our assets, but also our family.”
Tokbergenov said that every day since Baratov’s arrest, he and his wife have discussed their plan should their son be released on bail.
“I have a very concrete plan. All electronic devices, all computers, everything will be put in a lockbox,” he said. “My son will not have access neither to a TV, nor a computer, not to any electronics.”
Tokbergenov added that he works from home and would constantly monitor his son.
Baratov’s mother, Dinera Tokbergenova, testified that she would do the same.
“As much as I love him, I’m going to put that effort to watch over him,” she said. “I’m going to watch him as I’ve been watching him since he was a little child.”
Baratov’s mother added that her son was a kind, thoughtful man.
“Karim is very smart, he’s very intelligent, he’s very attentive,” she said. “And he will take his own shirt (off) for another person and he will give it to them.”
In a sworn affidavit filed with the court before Wednesday’s hearing, Baratov said he won’t try to use electronic devices if released on bail.
He also said his parents are willing to “propose a large sum of money” to secure his release.
“This represents the entirety of their life savings. As such, this will act as a significant deterrent to me to comply with any conditions imposed upon me by this honourable court,” he said in the document. “I will not let them down.”
Baratov also took the stand at his bail hearing, but did not directly speak to why he should be released.
Instead, during the bail hearing that was not subject to a typical publication ban, Baratov answered questions from a Crown prosecutor about his finances.
He explained that he started a company in 2014 that earned money by hosting webspace for small businesses and protecting websites from hackers.
He told the court he earned about $90,000 from his business in its first year, but earned less in later years.
In a document applying for Baratov’s release, lawyer Amedeo DiCarlo wrote that his client poses no flight risk as he doesn’t have ties to other countries — Baratov renounced his citizenship of Kazakhstan when he became a Canadian citizen, he noted.
DiCarlo also wrote that Baratov has no previous criminal record, and no history of failing to appear in court.
“There’s no way he’s going to flee,” DiCarlo said outside court.
The three other suspects indicted along with Baratov in the case are Dmitry Aleksandrovich Dokuchaev, 33, Igor Anatolyevich Sushchin, 43, and Alexsey Alexseyevich (Magg) Belan, 29, all Russian nationals and residents. It’s not clear whether they will ever step foot in an American courtroom since there’s no extradition treaty with Russia
Dokuchaev and Sushchin are said to be Russian intelligence agents who allegedly masterminded and directed the hacking, the U.S. Justice Department has said.
The pair allegedly tasked Baratov with hacking more than 80 accounts in exchange for commissions, according to U.S. authorities, who submitted a provisional arrest warrant for Baratov to Canadian authorities March 7.
Baratov’s father said he couldn’t imagine his son working for Russian intelligence officials.
“Not under my roof, nor his roof,” he said.
If convicted in the U.S., Baratov faces up to 20 years in prison, a Crown prosecutor said.
Baratov’s bail hearing is set to continue next Tuesday.
Nicole Thompson, The Canadian Press