Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Austria issues international arrest warrant for alleged Russian spy

Igor Egorovich Zaytsev

The Austrian government has issued an international arrest warrant for a Russian man who allegedly recruited a retired colonel in the Austrian Federal Army to spy for Moscow. The arrest warrant was issued on Tuesday by the public prosecutor’s office in the city of Salzburg. It identifies the Russian man as Igor Egorovich Zaytsev. Austrian officials allege that the Moscow-born Zaytsev is in fact an intelligence officer for the Main Directorate of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces. Known as GRU, the organization is Russia’s primary military-intelligence agency.
In an accompanying press statement issued on Tuesday, the Austrian Ministry of the Interior said that Zaytsev had facilitated the “betrayal of state secrets” and that his actions had been “to the detriment of the Republic of Austria”. The arrest warrant accuses Zaytsev of having participated in the “intentional disclosure of a military secret”, but does not provide details. However, in a subsequent statement, Austrian police directly linked the search for Zaytsev with an espionage case that was reported in the Austrian media last year. The statement said that Zaytsev is believed to have recruited a man known as “Martin M.” to spy on Austria. This appears to refer to the arrest last November of a 70-year-old colonel in the Austrian Army, who was stationed in Salzburg. He is believed to have spied for Russia from at least 1992 until his arrest. Austrian media reported that the accused spy was believed to have given Russia information on a range of weapons systems used by the Austrian Army and Air Force, as well as the personal details of high-ranking officers in the Austrian Armed Forces.
Soon after the arrest of “Martin M.”, Austrian authorities arrested a second man, identified only as “O.”, who is also suspected on having spied for Russia. According to the Vienna Public Prosecutor’s Office, “O.” was an employee of the Austrian Office for Protection of the Constitution and Counterterrorism, known as BVT. He had been investigated on suspicion of espionage for more than a year prior to his arrest. The man’s arrest took place alongside simultaneous raids at two residential addresses associated with him, according to reports. No further details have been made available since the arrest. It is not known whether Zaytsev’s is also connected with the case of “O.”.
► Author: Joseph Fitsanakis 

Spain’s second largest bank under investigation in massive espionage scandal

José Manuel Villarejo

Spain’s second largest bank has been placed under investigation in connection with a probe into an illegal network that spied on scores of politicians, business executives, journalists and judges for over 20 years. The investigation centers on José Manuel Villarejo (pictured), a 67-year-old former police chief, who remains in pre-trial custody following his arrest in November of 2017 for carrying out illegal wiretaps. State prosecutors accuse Villarejo of running an illicit information-collection enterprise that violated the privacy of hundreds of unsuspecting citizens. Villarejo’s victims were targeted by corporate competitors and individual wealthy clients. Many were eventually blackmailed by the recipients of the information that was collected by the former police chief and his network.
On Tuesday, Spain’s High Court, the Audiencia Nacional, placed the country’s second-largest bank, the BBVA, under formal investigation in connection with the Villarejo case. Audiencia Nacional Judge Manuel García-Castellón took the decision to investigate the BBVA after government prosecutors argued that the bank was one of Villarejo’s main clients, as shown in documents seized from the former police chief in 2017. According to the prosecution, the bank made illicit payments to a company called Cenyt, which was owned by Villarejo. The payments lasted for over 13 years, during which Villarejo earned close to €10 million ($11.1 million) from BBVA. In return, Villarejo and his employees carried out surveillance operations on behalf of the bank. One of the operations targeted Sacyr, a large Spanish-based construction company, which had tried to purchase BBVA in 2004 and 2005. Spanish government prosecutors now accuse BBVA of bribery, disclosure of sensitive information, and corrupt business practices.
In January of 2018 five active police officers and an employee of the Agencia Tributaria, Spain’s tax revenue service, testified in court about having worked for Villarejo’s network. They disclosed information about Operation KITCHEN, an espionage effort that targeted Luis Bárcenas, a senator and party treasurer of Spain’s conservative Partido Popular. The purpose of Operation KITCHEN was to wiretap Bárcenas’ communications without acquiring a court warrant, said the witnesses. Last year Bárcenas was jailed for 33 years for his role in the so-called Gürtel case, the largest corruption scandal in modern Spanish history, which brought down the conservative government of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy in July of 2017. Villarejo’s trial continues.
► Author: Ian Allen 

Dramatic moment British fighter jets intercept Russian military transport plane as it passes close to Estonian air space

Royal Air Force Typhoon fighter jets intercept a Russian IL-76 military transport aircraft that was flying close to Estonian airspace.

This is the the dramatic moment RAF jets intercept a Russian military aircraft which passed close to Estonian airspace.  
Typhoon fighter jets operating from Ämari Air Base in Estonia launched on Sunday to escort the Russian IL-76 military transport aircraft away from Estonian territory.
Dramatic pictures show the jets flying close to the larger Russian plane as they intercepted it as part of a NATO deterrent mission. 
Defence Secretary, Ben Wallace, said: 'As this latest Quick Reaction Alert demonstrates, the RAF are frequently called upon to use their world class skills and capabilities to help police and protect the skies over the Baltics.
'Our personnel deployed to Estonia and around the world are always ready to react to any scenario as we continue our commitment to our NATO allies.'
A Typhoon pilot from XI(Fighter) Squadron, attached to 121 Expeditionary Air Wing (EAW), was conducting Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) duty when the scramble was called. 
He said: 'We were scrambled to intercept an aircraft that was approaching Estonian airspace from the south. We identified and monitored it as it transited close to NATO airspace. 
a plane flying in the air: Dramatic pictures released by the Ministry of Defence show the RAF Typhoon flying close to the Russian plane
'This is standard protocol for aircraft that might not be communicating with Air Traffic Control or on a recognised flight plan.
'We continued to escort the transport aircraft as it transited in a north direction, away from Estonian airspace.'
The Royal Air Force is deployed on Operation AZOTIZE in Estonia in support of Baltic Air Policing.
This is the 14th QRA scramble and intercept since the RAF took over enhanced Air Policing from the German Air Force on 3 May 2019 as part of Baltic Air Policing.  
a fighter jet flying through a blue sky: The Royal Air Force is deployed on Operation AZOTIZE in Estonia in support of Baltic Air Policing