Last updated: June 16, 2010 - 8:37am
Senior US law enforcement officials have objected to AOL's pending sale of one of the largest instant-messaging services to a Russian investment firm, fearing it will put some of the world's top criminals further from their reach.
Investigators at federal agencies charged with scrutinizing cyber crime are concerned about the $187.5m acquisition of ICQ by Moscow-based Digital Sky Technologies, which has been rapidly expanding its holding of Internet companies. Digital Sky, led by physicist-turned-banker Yuri Milner, the 47-year-old chief executive, already owns Russia's largest e-mail provider and three of the country's leading social networking sites. In 2009, it bought stakes in Facebook, the world's largest social network, and Zynga, the online games developer. ICQ is the leading instant messaging service in Russia, Germany and the Czech Republic and, according to law enforcement investigators, is one of the main avenues of communication for criminal groups in eastern Europe, some of whom never meet in person.
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