Russia seeks 'kidnapped' son of software tycoon

22nd April 2011, Comments 0 comments

Russian authorities urgently searched Friday for the missing son of software tycoon Eugene Kaspersky, reportedly kidnapped on a ransom demand of three million euros ($4.4 million).

The interior ministry did not officially announce that Ivan Kaspersky, 20, had been abducted in what would be one of the highest-profile kidnappings in Russia in recent years.

However the tabloid website, which first reported the young man was taken, said it had received information he had already been released in exchange for a ransom payment.

"Money has been paid for Ivan. I do not know the sum. But there is information that they have given him back," a source close to the investigation told the website.

The information was not carried by other media and the interior ministry did not offer any comment.

Eugene Kaspersky, 45, co-founded Kaspersky Lab in 1997, building on a decade of research into computer viruses. The company has emerged as one of the world's leading anti-virus software firms.

His fortune is valued at $800 million by Forbes magazine, making him the 125th richest man in Russia.

His company issued a statement making clear that it would not comment on the matter.

"Kaspersky Lab requests that the media refrains from spreading speculation and rumours about events concerning members of the family of Eugene Kaspersky," it said.

"Eugene Kaspersky is working as usual but explained that that information that has been released harms his company."

The Kommersant daily said Ivan Kaspersky, a mathematics student at Moscow State University, was taken on Tuesday morning close to the office where he was doing work experience as a programmer.

It quoted a source as saying the kidnappers phoned Eugene Kaspersky in London on his mobile phone, making the three-million-euro ransom demand and warning him not to contact the police.

He flew to Moscow and requested help from his personal contacts in the Federal Security Service (FSB). The authorities kept the matter top secret to protect the security of Ivan Kaspersky.

The website reported the kidnapping on Thursday, apparently after one of Ivan's fellow students let slip the news in a conversation overheard by a journalist.

"That the information is now in the press is very bad," an official in the missing-persons department of Moscow police told the Izvestia newspaper which also confirmed the kidnapping.

"This can only be of harm to the kidnap victim."

The kidnappings of children of prominent businessmen is not uncommon in Russia, although Ivan Kaspersky appears to be the most prominent victim yet.

In 2009 criminals held the son of a vice president at state oil firm Rosneft, Mikhail Stavsky. He was freed unharmed after a three-month ordeal.

Viktoria Kisluk, the 16-year-old daughter of a top manager at Russia's biggest private oil firm Lukoil, is still missing after vanishing in the Moscow region in March.

Kaspersky studied computer science, cryptography and mathematics at a Moscow institute used by the KGB intelligence service to train its staff.

He later worked at a defence ministry research institute until 1991, where he first began writing anti-virus programmes.

Kaspersky co-founded the company with his wife Natalya Kasperskaya. The couple are divorced.

© 2011 AFP

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