"Three Russian nationals - Balakovo resident Ivan Maksakov, Astrakhan resident Alexander Petrov and St. Petersburg resident Denis Stepanov - are charged with committing a number of computer crimes via the Internet, and of extorting money from several U.K. companies," public prosecutor Anton Pakhomov said.
Each of the three faced charges on 19 articles of the Russian Criminal Code, punishable by up to 15 years in prison.
Pakhomov said the hackers collected information about British web casinos and bookmakers' offices using spy software designed by 20-year-old Maksakov, and then demanded ransoms from the owners, threatening to disrupt their web servers if they did not comply.
"The web server of Canbet Sports Bookmakers Ltd, which refused to pay a $10,000 ransom demand, was blocked during the Breeders' Cup races, and the company lost more than $200,000 for each day of downtime," he said.
Investigators said the criminal group received more than $4 million from U.K. companies. The prosecutor said the group made 54 similar attacks in 30 countries for the six months they were active.
Maksakov and Stepanov were detained in September 2004 through the joint efforts of Britain's National High Tech Crime Unit, Interpol, the FBI and Russia's Interior Ministry and the Prosecutor General's Office. Petrov was arrested in mid-2005.