Parents of Karim Baratov, alleged hacker in Yahoo breach, ready to sacrifice for son's bail

Parents of Karim Baratov, alleged hacker in Yahoo breach, ready to sacrifice for son's bail

The parents of alleged hacker-for-hire Karim Baratov say they will cut off the internet to their house and lock up all electronic devices if that is what it takes to get their son released on bail.

The 22-year-old, who is accused of having ties to Russian intelligence and being involved a massive 2014 Yahoo email hack, was in Hamilton court today for a bail hearing. He wants to be released from custody as he awaits a hearing on extradition to the United States, which could be months away.

He has been in custody since his arrest on March 14. 

Baratov's parents told the court they'd do whatever it takes to keep their son off the internet if it meant he could be freed from jail. Akhmet Tokbergenov, who has a PhD in physiology and biochemistry, said he'd cut off the internet, even though his consulting work with a company in Kazakhstan depends on it.

No decision was made on Wednesday, and the bail hearing will continue on April 11.

On Wednesday, Tokbergenov pledged to enforce the conditions so strictly that if his affluent son broke them, "even jail would look like paradise."

Tokbergenov and his wife, Dinara Tokbergenova, said they'll put up the full value of their $800,000 home as surety to have their son live with them while on bail. That, aside from $10,000, is their life savings, Tokbergenov said.

He said he had read the court documents outlining the charges against his son. He's worried, he said. But he's not prepared to judge him before his trial.

Much of the Crown's questioning Wednesday revolved around how Baratov's parents didn't find it strange that their teenage son made more money than they did. As far back as age 16, Baratov began buying luxury cars, such as Lamborghinis, Porsches and Audi R8s.

Tokbergenova said they saw him working on websites, and he showed them his finished work.

"I was trusting him," Tokbergenov said. "He was working and there were no suspicions." ​

Baratov himself was in the witness box to start the day. He testified that he started buying luxury cars in high school with money he made with his online business.

He began working online when he was 12 or 13, he said. He started his own business in 2014, and earned about $100,000 building websites and protecting web servers, he testified.

Baratov outlined how he bought and sold cars over the years. One of them, he said, he bought by renting out web server space.

 "It's like buying a building and renting out one room," said Baratov.

Crown prosecutor Heather Graham asked him how he characterized his income on his income tax forms.

"Online services," Baratov said.

When he showed up for court Wednesday morning, Baratov was wearing a black T-shirt that showed his sleeve of tattoos. Then he put on a suit jacket provided by one of his lawyers. He appeared relaxed and calm, and occasionally, his gaze drifted to the ceiling as he was being questioned.

He said only what was required to answer the question. He went through the cars he bought and how much he paid for them, and which ones were financed and which ones bought outright.

When he was 20, his father urged him to make wiser investments, so he bought a three-bedroom house in Ancaster worth $642,000. His parents paid half the down payment of $128,000, and he paid the rest, he testified.

Court also heard that when investigators raided Baratov's house last month, he had $31,000 in cash there and $900 in his wallet. But he also said that there were times when his personal savings account had a zero balance.

Baratov faces many U.S. Justice Department charges related to computer hacking, economic espionage and other offences. He is accused of being involved in the 2014 massive breach of information from Yahoo email accounts.

The FBI indicted Baratov last month, accusing him of being part of an international criminal conspiracy alongside two Russian intelligence officers. A fourth man, who lived in the U.S. but fled to Russia, also faces charges. 

Baratov's lawyers say they plan to fight the extradition, which could take 18 months to three years to unfold.

"Hopefully I can get this kid back into the family's hands," said his lawyer Amedeo DiCarlo. "They miss him. They love him. They care for him."

Prosecutors argue that Baratov is a flight risk. Law enforcement officials in the U.S. and Canada have said Baratov had more than $210,000 in "just one of his multiple" online accounts.

​U.S. authorities filed a provisional warrant earlier this year saying Baratov, who they describe as a "hacker for hire," is "a danger to the community" because of his "demonstrated history of hacking into numerous victims' email accounts."

The warrant also says Baratov "has ties to foreign government officials" already willing to "offer sanctuary to at least one of Baratov's co-conspirators."

DiCarlo disputes this.

"He is not a Russian citizen," he said. "He does not have a Russian passport. He's never been to Russia, contrary to what has been claimed. There's been no stamp that he's been to Russia on his passport.

"He's never been to the U.S. He doesn't have a U.S. passport. He has a Canadian passport. He's a Canadian citizen. He's been a Canadian citizen. Where would he go? He's got his parents and his family here."

In court, Graham read out an online post where Baratov said he'd been to Russia several times. Tokbergenova said her son, like the rest of the family, talked up being from Russia because the movie Borat! Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan made them embarrassed to say they were from Kazakhstan.

Tokbergenova said she even told co-workers she was Russian because of "that stupid movie."

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