A member of the notorious "29A" gang has been found guilty by a Russian court of writing and distributing the W32/Stepan and Gastropod viruses and fined 3,000 roubles - a feeble £57 ($105).

Eugene Suchkov - who used the pseudonym "whale"- admitted all charges of having made available the source code for the viruses along with additional code necessary to create virus variants.

Despite the declared satisfaction of virus experts that the law has caught up with another virus hoodlum, the tiny sum involved is bound to attract derision. In many countries, Suchkov would have found himself in prison.

The 29A group (29A being hexadecimal for "666"), has in the past claimed to be helping anti-virus companies by alerting them to virus source code, but the crimes of which Suchkov has been found guilty suggest this is nonsense.

By coincidence, controversy erupted last week at the news that Czech company, Zoner Software, had hired another member of the 29A group, "Benny", to work for it. This particular individual was quoted last year in a Techworld story on Microsoft's bounty scheme offered up to catch virus writers.

"This new initiative from Microsoft does not change anything. Virus writers who spread their viruses know very well that what they are doing is illegal," he said at the time on the Microsoft initiative.

Despite the fact that "Benny" has since resigned from the group, the company has been heavily criticised for creating the impression that an early career writing viruses can now be seen as leading to legitimate work.