Russian Spies Posed as Plumbers in Davos

Marco Green
January 22, 2020

Even those with diplomatic passports.

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.

The two unnamed men were taken in for a routine identity check in August 2019 after authorities learned that they were both staying in the country for the same three-week period, Tagez Anzeiger reported, citing the police spokeswoman in the canton of Graubünden where Davos is located.

The men claimed diplomatic protections, but had not been registered as official diplomats with Bern, the police said.

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

The Russian embassy in Bern did not respond to a request for comment. Alongside Mr Trump - and his retinue, among them his daughter Ivanka and her husband Jared Kushner - other leaders of potential interest to the Kremlin attending this year include president of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen, Ukraine's president Volodymyr Zelensky and Hong Kong's chief executive Carrie Lam, not to mention hundreds of chief executives and senior government officials.

It costs around CHF9 million to ensure security at Davos not including a CHF32 million budget for the army. But some disclosures give a sense of their scale: the cost of auto rental alone for officials from the White House Communications Agency - who ensure the integrity and encryption of presidential communications - will be $266,000 for the two-day trip.

A police security guard patrols on the roof of a hotel ahead of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Monday, Jan. 20, 2020.

"It is true that we checked two Russian citizens in Davos and they identified themselves with diplomatic passports, but we could not ascertain any reason to detain them".

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.

The report in the Tages-Anzeiger newspaper said the two Russians were checked by Swiss police in August previous year in the ski resort, which is hosting the WEF gathering of the global business and political elite this week. Russia's military secret service GRU has been very active in recent years against Swiss targets.

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

Russian prosecutors have said they suspect Browder of ordering a string of murders, including of Magnitsky, in a twist the financier has dismissed as ludicrous.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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