Swiss security forces thwarted an espionage operation faced in August by Russian agents pretending to be plumbers in the city of Davos, where the influential World Economic Forum is held every year, the newspaper revealed Tuesday Tages-Anzeiger
The 2020 edition of the Forum, which brings together the world’s leading leaders and the global economic eliteIt began precisely on Tuesday and will continue until Friday, and it is believed that intelligence agents were preparing surveillance equipment in the city for this event.
According to the report of Tages-Anzeiger, the two Russian plumbers were delayed by the Swiss police in August 2019 and in the middle of an investigation. The men then presented Russian diplomatic passports, although they were not accredited in Switzerland, and finally they were able to leave the country.
The men were delayed since both the police and the Swiss federal authorities suspected they were undercover intelligence agents, who were posing as plumbers to be able to install surveillance equipment in different strategic sites of the city that receives the most powerful for a few days a year, according to the report.
The police of the canton of Grinsons confirmed having made a “Routine identity check” to two Russian citizens in August 2019, but he noted that a link between his visit to the city and the Davos Forum had not been established, according to the agency Reuters.
“It is true that we check two Russian citizens in Davos and that they identified themselves with diplomatic passports, but we could not establish any reason to stop them. We release them ”, a police spokeswoman said, denying that the men were taken by plumbers.
Meanwhile a spokesman for the Russian embassy in Bern dismissed the report of the Tages-Anzeiger, pointing out that Two Russian diplomats were accredited outside of Switzerland, were checked by the police and then released.
“Diplomatic passports are given to high-ranking officials, not manual workers,” He said, referring to his alleged facade as plumbers. “I think this was probably a silly joke“He added.
While Maria Zakharova, spokesman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, said from Moscow to the agency Reuters what I was not aware of the incident.
Bill Browder, an investment fund manager who has directed a campaign to expose corruption in Russia and punish Kremlin officials that he believes are responsible for the death of his lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky, who died in a Moscow prison in 2009 after complaining about a series of mistreatmentsHe said the incident with the plumber-spy shows the reach of the Russian state.
“The Russians are actively targeting their enemies in different countries. They have enormous resources and Davos is an important place, it is the only place I can come and personally challenge Russian officials for the murder of Sergei Magnitsky, ”said the Anglo-American, who is in the Swiss city attending the Global Economic Forum.
Historically neutral, Switzerland is fertile territory for espionage activities of the main powers, and the committees of the different heads of state and government attending the Davos Forum spend real fortunes on security during the four days of the event.
In the case of US President Donald Trump, the total cost is classified matter, but a leaked data cited by the Financial times It gives an idea of scale: only the rental of cars for the transfer of the communication team of the entourage has cost $ 266,000.
The presence of Russian intelligence agents in Switzerland is especially notable, especially members of the intelligence services of the Armed Forces, or GRU. The country has even been a meeting point for operational members of the dreaded Unit 29155, dedicated to killing enemies and sowing divisions, the investigative journalism portal has reported Bellingcat.
According to a 2018 study on the Swiss Federal Intelligence Service, it is estimated that one in four Russian diplomats is a spy.