The trial of a Kazakhstan man accused of attempting to extort $200,000 from the founder of the Bloomberg financial news service began New York this week.
Oleg Zezov, 29, allegedly hacked into Bloomberg's computer system, then emailed Bloomberg founder Michael Bloomberg threatening that the financial news service's reputation would be put at risk if he wasn't paid. The alleged threat was made in March 2000, prior to Bloomberg's election as New York's mayor.
Assistant US Attorney Robert Strang told the court that within weeks of his initial contact, Zezov was demanding that $200,000 be sent to an offshore bank account in exchange for telling Bloomberg how he was able to crack into his company's computer system.
After receiving this threat, Bloomberg contacted the FBI and arranged to meet Zezov and alleged accomplice Igor Yarimika in London, where the pair was arrested in an FBI sting operation. The two men were subsequently extradited from the UK to face trial in the US.
The case against Yarimika is due to go to court later this year.
At the beginning of Zezov's trial Robert Baum, Zezov's attorney, claimed his client was only offering his services as a security consultant and that Bloomberg misunderstood Zezov's intentions.
"This case is about a rush to judgment by a multibillionaire who could not accept that his computer system was fallible and had a bug in it," Baum said in his opening statement, AP reports.
Zezov faces attempted extortion charges punishable by up 20 year in prison.
Bloomberg is scheduled to testify in the trial next week. ®
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