Netherlands expels Russian diplomats suspected of spying on high-tech sector
Two Russian diplomats accused of being spies were in the process of being expelled from the Netherlands, said Dutch intelligence service AIVD. The two were both registered as diplomats but were actually intelligence agents of the Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR), the AIVD alleged.
The first was said to have taken an active roll in an espionage scheme targeting the high-tech sector in the Netherlands. He established a network of sources involved in technology and science, either by actively working in the fields or having done so in the past. In some cases, the agent paid sources for access to secret information, the AIVD said.
Allegedly, the second operative helped facilitate the scheme. A third person considered to be a source to the agents was reported to immigration service IND.
The AIVD said on Thursday that the plot probably damaged the targeted organizations, and may have had a negative impact on the Dutch economy and the country's national security. It did not disclose details which organizations were hit in the scheme, but they said they made official notifications to businesses and one higher education institution so they can respond.
The information sought was "about artificial intelligence, semiconductors and nanotechnology, among other things. Much of this technology is useful in both civil and military applications," the AIVD said.
Both of the diplomats were both declared "persona non grata" by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs. They will no longer be permitted to work as diplomats in the Netherlands, and will have to leave the country soon, the AIVD said.
The head of the intelligence service, Erik Akerboom, said, "We are protecting the strategic interests of the Netherlands by gathering intelligence that exposes this form of espionage." In a statement, he added, "We are also making our society aware of the risks of espionage, and we explain to companies, governments and educational institutions how they can prevent it."
A day earlier, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) said it was the target of a cyberattack. It was later confirmed that documents pertaining to the regulatory review of a Covid-19 vaccine candidate produced by Pfizer and BioNTech were accessed. The EMA is based in Amsterdam, and said it was cooperating with "law enforcement and other relevant entities."