Owner of Noord-Brabant defense business arrested in Paris at U.S. request
The owner of a defense company in Rijen, Noord-Brabant, was arrested in Paris on suspicion of spying for the Russians, the United States Department of Justice announced. The man allegedly passed on sensitive American technology to Russia.
The 59-year-old Nikolaos B., of Greek origin, was arrested on May 9 and is awaiting extradition to the United States. He owns the Aratos Group, a group of companies with branches in the Netherlands and Greece that develops satellite technology, the American justice wrote in a statement.
“The defendant and his Aratos group ostensibly operated as a defense contractor for NATO and other allied countries. At the same time, they played a double game and aided Russia’s war effort and its development of next-generation weapons,” said U.S. Attorney Breaon Peace in a statement.
The umbrella of Dutch defense companies NIDV suspended Aratos as a member with immediate effect, according to a message to the other members that the Telegraaf saw. “A mole in the middle of the Dutch defense industry,” said one of the members.
Russia allegedly recruited the Greek man as a spy in 2017. In that role, he passed on American military technology to the Russians, along with dual-use goods - items with both civilian and military uses. His arrest stems from the newly established Disruptive Technology Strike Force, a collaboration between the U.S. Departments of Justice and Commerce, which must tackle the leaking of U.S. military technology to authoritarian regimes.
One of the companies in Nikolaos B.’s Aratos group, the Rijen-based Aratos Systems BV, became a finalist in the NATO Innovation Challenge in 2021 with a project involving artificial intelligence (AI) and blockchain technology, according to the American judiciary.
According to the Telegraaf, NIDV director Hans Huigen wrote to members of the umbrella of Dutch defense companies: “I have informed the Dutch representative of this company about my decision to suspend the company as a participant of the NIDV and of all activities (co)organized by the NIDV. I hope and expect that you agree with me that a suspension, given the nature and seriousness of the suspicions, is in order for now.”
Reporting by ANP