Russian plot to infiltrate Davos forum with spies foiled

‘Russian plot to infiltrate Davos forum with spies disguised as plumbers was foiled by Swiss officials’

  • Police quizzed two Russian men staying in the upmarket resort last August
  • They were suspected of posing as plumbers so they could bug the forum
  • Claimed diplomatic protection but had not registered with Swiss officials 

Swiss police believe they foiled an attempt by Russian spies disguised as plumbers to bug the World Economic Forum in Davos where world leaders including Donald Trump are meeting this week.

Detectives questioned two Russian men in the luxury resort last August after they aroused suspicions during their three-week stay.

At least one of the men told police he was a plumber, Swiss paper Tages-Anzeiger reported today.

But suspicions were raised when the pair were found to be carrying diplomatic passports and could not explain how they got them.

Security is high around Davos as 3,000 world and business leaders are expected in the Alpine town during the three-day meeting

Donald Trump is among world leaders at the forum that Russian spies may have tried to bug

A police spokeswoman told AFP: ‘It was a regular police check. Both men had Russian diplomatic passports but were not formally registered as diplomats in Switzerland.’

The men were said to have been let go after Switzerland was threatened with ‘repercussions’ if they were arrested.

Swiss authorities suspect the two men of carrying out ‘preparatory work’ to spy on the forum this week which is going ahead amid tight security.

The annual summit brings together top global political and business leaders, with US President Donald Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel among those attending this year, making it an obvious potential target for a spying operation.

Russia denied any plot.

Russian embassy spokesman Stanislav Smirnov said: ‘We did not receive any information about this from Swiss authorities. There is no evidence of spying.

‘I don’t rule out that it may have been people with Russian diplomatic passports – they do not necessarily need to be accredited in Switzerland.’

Asked why one of the men had claimed to be a plumber, Smirnov said it may have been a ‘stupid joke’ by the man.

Swiss police suspect spies under orders from Russian President Vladimir Putin (pictured) may have been trying to bug the World Economic Forum in Davos

Trump waves to the media as he is surrounded by tight security at Davos on Tuesday

Tages-Anzeiger said the men may have been preparing a wiretapping or hacking operation in Davos, and cited several sources saying that Russian officials ‘threatened diplomatic consequences if the men were arrested’.

The paper said the Swiss Attorney General’s Office had not opened criminal proceedings into the Davos incident.

Switzerland has become increasingly alert to Russian spies operating in the country, after a 2018 report from the Swiss Federal Intelligence Service found that one in four Russian diplomats based there was a spy. 

Switzerland has been probing two alleged Russian agents for planning a cyber attack on the Spiez laboratory in Bern, which does analytical work for the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).

The lab at the time was investigating the poisoning of Russian double agent Sergei Skripal with a nerve agent.

Swiss authorities also suspect Russia of being behind a cyber attack on the Lausanne office of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).

WADA has been a thorn in Moscow’s side for several years over drug cheating in Russian sport.

The Montreal-based watchdog suspended Russia’s Anti-Doping Agency in 2015 after declaring it to be non-compliant following evidence of a vast plan backed by Moscow to cheat at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.

WADA has since imposed a four-year ban on Russia from major sporting events, which Moscow is appealing.

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