U.S. authorities have unveiled the formal charges against Kremlin-linked Russian businessman Vladislav Klyushin, who was extradited from Switzerland to the United States last week over his alleged involvement in a global scheme to trade on hacked confidential information.
The Attorney’s Office in the District of Massachusetts said in a statement on December 20 that four other Russian nationals who remain at large were also charged as part of the scheme, which it said netted tens of millions of dollars in illegal profits.
Klyushin, 41, was arrested in Switzerland on a U.S. warrant in March and was extradited to the United States on December 18.
He was charged with “conspiring to obtain unauthorized access to computers, and to commit wire fraud and securities fraud, and with obtaining unauthorized access to computers, wire fraud and securities fraud," the U.S. statement said.
Klyushin is set to appear in federal court in Boston later on December 20.
In an e-mail sent to RFE/RL, his Swiss lawyer, Oliver Ciric, described the case as politically motivated and argued that the real reason he was sought was "the nature of his work for and contacts within the Russian government."
"The U.S. intelligence had attempted to recruit Mr Klyushin in the past and only after he refused such cooperation had he been indicted and arrested," he added.
There were no immediate comments from U.S. officials about Ciric's allegations.
The Russian Embassy in Bern has called the Swiss decision to extradite him “another episode in Washington's ongoing hunt for Russian citizens in third countries.
Klyushin owns M13, a Russian company that offers media monitoring and cybersecurity services. According to Russian opposition media, he is close to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s first deputy chief of staff, Aleksei Gromov.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office said two of Klyushin’s co-defendants -- 35-year-old Ivan Ermakov and Nikolai Rumiantcev, 33 -- have been charged with “conspiring to obtain unauthorized access to computers, and to commit wire fraud and securities fraud and with obtaining unauthorized access to computers, wire fraud and securities fraud.”
In 2018, U.S. courts charged Ermakov, a former officer in Russia’s GRU military intelligence, for his alleged role in hacking and disinformation operations related to the 2016 U.S. presidential elections, and for similar activity targeting international anti-doping agencies, sporting federations, and anti-doping officials, it said.
The two other suspects, Mikhail Vladimirovich Irzak 43, and Igor Sergeevich Sladkov, 42, have been charged with “conspiracy to obtain unauthorized access to computers, and to commit wire fraud and securities fraud, and with securities fraud.”
“The integrity of our nation’s capital markets and of its computer networks are priorities for my office,” Acting United States Attorney Nathaniel Mendell said.
“Today’s charges show that we, the FBI, and our other law enforcement partners will relentlessly pursue those who hack, steal and attempt to profit from inside information, wherever they may hide.”