Serial spammer: Russian Viagra baron may face jail

Russian police have opened a criminal case against Igor Gusev, the director of an online pharmacy who is considered to be the world's top spammer.

Russian daily newspaper Kommersant reported on Wednesday that Moscow police are hunting for Gusev, director of Despmedia, on charges of illegal entrepreneurship and tax evasion. If he is convicted, he could face up to five years in prison.

Investigators have already searched the suspect’s home and office. They reportedly found a batch of pharmaceutical goods imported from India. According to investigator Evdokiya Utenkova, some of the documents discovered during the search may help officers find Gusev. The investigators are preparing to approach Interpol over the case.

Kommersant reports that Gusev’s company, Despmedia, was allegedly involved in the sale of counterfeit pharmaceutical products, like generic Viagra, in the US, Canada and other countries through spam emails. Sales over the last three and a half years are estimated to total around US$120 million, with Gusev pocketing some $2 million.

The market players cannot recall criminal investigations against spammers. However, the paper points out that in 2009, Russia's economy lost around half a billion US dollars in sales through spam.

Another prolific Russian spammer Vardan Kushnir was killed in 2005 in Moscow. Kushnir was the head of English learning centers called the Center for American English, the New York English Centre and the Centre for Spoken English. These enterprises sent millions of spam emails every day. Kushnir said spam is what email was made for.

Russian law prohibits using spam as an advertising method, but does not consider it a crime, which makes it difficult to call spammers in the country to account.

For more on the story read "Spam traffic shrinks 20% as Russian spammer goes on the run"