Russian hacker may have documents proving Kremlin meddling

Photo: DIMITAR DILKOFF/AFP (Getty Images)

A Russian businessman and accused hacker may have critical information about Russian meddling in the 2016 US presidential election, according to a recent report from Bloomberg. Fortunately for US authorities, the businessman in question was arrested and recently extradited to the US on unrelated criminal charges.

Vladislav Klyushin, the 41-year-old owner of Russian IT company M-13, has provided cybersecurity services to major government agencies in Russia, making him, as Bloomberg put it, “the top Kremlin insider handed over to U.S. law enforcement. in recent memory.”

He was arrested near an alpine ski resort in Switzerland in late March while he and his wife and children were on their way to a family vacation. (Switzerland-unlike Russia-has an official extradition treaty with the US) He was subsequently extradited to the US in mid-December.

The extradition is subject to a Indictment April 2020 against Klyushin and two colleagues, Ivan Yermakov and Nikolai Rumiantcev, on a series of charges related to extensive insider trading. The trio allegedly hacked into federal agencies responsible for storing US companies’ earnings reports and then used that information to trade shares in the companies before the reports were made public. In this way, they reportedly made more than $82.5 million by placing charged trades related to companies such as Tesla, Microsoft, Snap Inc. and others.

Klyushin’s lawyer, Oliver Ciric, has alleged that US authorities illegally hacked into the businessman’s phone to locate him and tip Swiss police about his presence in their country. Ciric further told Bloomberg that U.S. officials believe that Klyushin may have important information about Russia’s efforts to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election and that he could be persuaded to give up that information in exchange for a possible reprieve from a related long prison term with his charge of insider trading.

What kind of information could Klyushin have? According to sources interviewed by Bloomberg, Russian intelligence has come to believe that the businessman is in possession of documents showing that hackers working for Russia’s military intelligence agency, GRU, broke into Democratic Party servers in 2016. are, as are the documents’ own existence, unknown at this time.

Russian interference in 2016 elections is natural a complex, often obscure subject, although in this case Klyushin seems to have some connection with it. One of his co-conspirators in the insider trading case, Ivan Yermakov, was sued in 2018 as one of 12 Russian citizens accused of hacking into various Democratic Party organizations to influence the election. All agents – including Yermakov – were characterized as members of the GRU.

For his part, Klyushin has not struggled with anything in public. Through his lawyer, the businessman has blamed his arrest on an “operation set up by the US in conjunction with Swiss authorities” to obtain “certain confidential information” that the Americans believe he possesses, Bloomberg reported.

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