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.
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 on Monday.
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
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.