Russian "spies" looking for US economic intelligence posing as bankers foiled by FBI

Lynsey Barber
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Russian "spies" have been charged in New York City (Source: Getty)

Three Russians have been charged in connection with a Cold War-style spy ring attempting to gather economic intelligence on sanctions by posing as a bank employee, US authorities have said.

The FBI arrested Evgeby Buryakov in New York, charging him with conspiring to gather intelligence on behalf of Russia. He is due to appear in court.

Two fellow Russians, Igor Sporyshev and Victor Podobny have also been charged but have not been arrested. The pair have left the US and were protected by diplomatic immunity while they were there.

The three are alleged to have sought intelligence on potential US sanctions against Russian banks and US efforts to develop alternative energy resources, New York attorney general Eric Holder said.

In court documents, it’s alleged Buryakov, working as an agent for Russia’s foreign intelligence agency, posed as an employee in the Manhattan office of a Russian bank.

Sporyshev, who served as a trade representative of the Russian Federation in New York, and Podobny, who was served as an attaché to the permanent mission of the Russian Federation to the United Nations between December 2012 and September 2013, were also agents working on behalf of Russia to gather intelligence, it’s alleged.

The pair are alleged to have aided Buryakov in gathering intelligence and reporting back to Russia as well as attempting to recruit residents of New York City as intelligence sources.

US Attorney Preet Bharara said: “Following our previous prosecution with the FBI of Russian spies, who were expelled from the United States in 2010 when their plan to infiltrate upper levels of U.S. business and government was revealed, the arrest of Evgeny Buryakov and the charges against him and his co-defendants make clear that—more than two decades after the presumptive end of the Cold War—Russian spies continue to seek to operate in our midst under cover of secrecy.

“Indeed, the presence of a Russian banker in New York would in itself hardly draw attention today, which is why these alleged spies may have thought Buryakov would blend in. What they could not do without drawing the attention of the FBI was engage in espionage. New York City may be more hospitable to Russian businessmen than during the Cold War, but my Office and the FBI remain vigilant to the illegal intelligence-gathering activities of other nations.”

FBI assistant director Randall Coleman, said espionage was as pervasive as it has ever been. “This investigation is one of many that highlight the determined and prolific efforts by foreign governments to target Americans for the purposes of collecting intelligence and stealing secrets," he said. “This case is especially egregious as it demonstrates the actions of a foreign intelligence service to integrate a covert intelligence agent into American society under the cover of an employee in the financial sector.”

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