Just a crack down on one person by Russian authorities had led to estimated drop one-fifth email spam since last month. But with 200 billion spam messages in circulation each day, there is still plenty to go around.
Russia, being a major spam exporter, say they are trying to do their part to stem the flow. On Tuesday, police officials here announced a criminal investigation of a suspected spam kingpin, Igor A. Gusev. They said he had probably fled the country.
Moscow police authorities said Mr. Gusev, 31, was a central figure in the operations of SpamIt.com, which paid spammers to promote online pharmacies, sometimes quite lewdly.
SpamIt.com suddenly stopped operating on Sept. 27. With less financial incentive to send their junk mail, spammers curtailed their activity by an estimated 50 billion messages a day.
Mr. Gusev was accused of operating a pharmacy without a license and of failing to register a business.
They searched Mr. Gusev apartment and office in Moscow, according to Lt. Yevdokiya F. Utenkova, an investigator in the economic crime division of the Moscow police department.
Lieutenant Utenkova said the search of the apartment turned up seven removable hard drives, four flash cards and three laptops. Specific, computer-crime related charges may follow after police examine their contents, she said. The investigation began Sept. 21, six days before SpamIt.com closed.
Mr. Gusev's lawyer, Vadim A. Kolosov, said in a telephone interview that his client was not the owner of SpamIt.com and had never sent spam e-mail, but declined to respond to specific questions.
The drop-off in spam since SpamIt.com went down had been noted by companies in the United States that monitor the Internet.
Kaspersky Lab, an antivirus company based in Moscow, said there had been a notable drop in mass e-mail in the United States that advertised prescription drugs -- to about 41 percent of all spam at the end of the September from 65 percent at the beginning of the month.
- New york Time Inputs