No bail for Canadian accused in Yahoo hack after judge criticizes parents

Amedeo DiCarlo, the lawyer for Karim Baratov, left, arrives at the courthouse in Hamilton, Ont., on Tuesday, April 11, 2017.
Image Credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mark Blinch

HAMILTON - A Canadian accused in a massive hack of Yahoo emails was denied bail on Tuesday after the judge rejected his parents as supervisors and found he had both the incentive and the means to seek refuge abroad.

After all, Ontario Superior Court Justice Alan Whitten said in his decision, Karim Baratov's parents had come to live lavish lifestyles while apparently ignoring how their son was making so much money.

Whitten was having none of the assertions from Baratov's father, Akhmet Tokbergenov, who told court jail would "appear to be paradise" compared with how strictly he would watch his son.

"Sounds pretty serious, but the court has to keep in mind that this was one of the parents who would have witnessed the pronounced growth of affluence by their teenaged son while he was in the family home," Whitten said.

"The parents were obviously prepared to turn a blind eye to their son's activities on the Internet and they benefited in turn by his financial contribution to the household maintenance."

What's more, he said, the loss of close to $1 million in money and assets — which Baratov's parents pledged as collateral for his release — would mean nothing to someone with endless sources of income accessible anywhere in the world.

"Baratov's cavalier attitude towards money, his trading in of cars with a significant trade loss, his online photographs with a fan of $100 bills, reflects his attitude towards money and his infinite opportunities to make more," he said.

"This is not a picture of an individual who would grieve the loss of $1 million."

Baratov, 22, 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.

The breach at Yahoo affected at least a half billion user accounts, but Baratov is only accused of hacking 80 accounts.

Under the bail plan proposed by Baratov's lawyers, the young man would have lived with his parents under a form of house arrest, with the addition of an electronic monitoring bracelet and a ban on accessing the Internet.

The defence said outside court that Baratov and his parents were disappointed with the decision and would be weighing their next steps.

"We'll go over it and see if there are any grounds for appeal, but it's premature to say that we'd be appealing that decision," Deepak Paradkar said.

Paradkar argued earlier Tuesday that the allegations had been "inflated," and said the young man was neither as rich nor as well-connected as has been portrayed.

For its part, the Crown said Baratov had "large unknown sums of money" that he could tap into anywhere, making it easy for him to flee the country and avoid possible extradition to the U.S.

Paradkar told the bail hearing there was no place to which Baratov could escape, since he had no known ties to any other country and police had seized his Canadian passport.

The lawyer said his client posed no threat to the public and detaining him would undermine public confidence in the justice system.

Tokbergenov works from home and would monitor his son around the clock, the lawyer told court.

Prosecutor Heather Graham argued Baratov's parents were blind to his alleged activities even when he was living under their roof and thus cannot be responsible for keeping him in line — arguments with which Whitten agreed.

"The effectiveness of the parents' supervision must be questioned," Whitten said. "Past silence or acquiescence does not bode well."

The judge also worried that a friend might supply the accused with a device that would allow him to transfer money and make flight arrangements.

With the threat of a prison sentence looming over him, Baratov would be particularly motivated to flee, the judge said, noting another man accused in the scheme had previously escaped to Russia after being detained in Greece.

Releasing Baratov on bail would leave Canada open to international embarrassment and raise questions at home about the administration of justice, Whitten concluded.

American authorities alleged in court documents that Baratov, who was born in Kazakhstan, posed an "extremely high flight risk" in part due to his alleged ties to Russian intelligence agents and his financial resources.

If convicted in the U.S., Baratov faces up to 20 years in prison. He is due back in Hamilton court on May 26. His extradition hearing has yet to be scheduled.

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