Saturday, October 22, 2011

Russian Spies Arrested in Germany

Last Tuesday, a married couple was arrested in Germany and charged with spying for the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service SVR. According to the German Attorney General in Karlsruhe, "the accused worked for a foreign intelligence service for long time".

According to Der Spiegel, the alleged spies were arrested on October, 18, in Baden-Württemberg and Hessen by the Bundeskriminalamt (BKA), Germany's Federal Criminal Police, and by the Spezialeinheit GSG 9, the counter-terrorism team of the Bundespolizei. On Wednesday, the examining magistrate issued warrants against both and ordered their remand.

Update October 25, 2011: the married couple operated as illegal agents in Germany under the cover names Andreas and Heidrun Anschlag. The couple caught the attention of the Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz (BfV), the German Domestic Intelligence Agency, after the FBI busted the Russian Spy ring in June 2010. Apparently, the couple had regular contacts with Anna Chapman, one the the US spy ring members.

Update January 16, 2013: a closed-door trial of Andreas and Heidrun Anschlag is due to start in Germany (via IntelNews)

Update July 5, 2013: Russian spy couple sentenced

BKA raided the couple's house at Ewiges Tal in Marburg-Michelbach on Tuesday at 06.30 a.m. They caught Heidrun red-handed whilst receiving an encrypted broadcast on a shortwave radio, connected to a computer. In a coordinated operation, Andres was arrested in an apartment, close to his work, where he sometimes spent the weeknights when commuting to his work. After the raid, BKA specialists did an extensive house search of several days, which included the use of a mobile X-ray laboratory.

According to the couple's documents, Andreas, age 51, was born in Argentina and raised in Austria. In 1988, he move to Germany and studied engineering in Aachen until 1998. In 1990, he married Heidrun, age 45 and born in Peru. Until recently, Andreas was working as a project manager in Balingen. They have a grown-up daughter. However, German authorities in South America confirmed that their documents were falsified. BKA also confiscated two forged Austrian passports. Moreover, Andreas speaks with a Russian accent, although he stated to speak German, Spanish and English only.

Apparently, the couple was already working for the KGB, the predecessor of the SVR and FSB, during the Soviet era, and had travelled over Mexico to West Germany in 1988. Andreas had recently quit his job, sold his car and was ready to leave Germany "to work abroad". Probably, the couple got cold feet or were tipped off by their spy agency. At the end, the German investigators outwitted them.

This new espionage case again confirms that the Cold War espionage activities continue to be an important part of intelligence gathering today, or how the Cold War turned into a Cold Peace. Undoubtedly, today's intelligence gathering focuses more on industrial and economic espionage, given the many spy cases involving Russian and Chinese agents that surfaced in recent years.

A spokesman for the Russian Embassy in Berlin refused to comment on the spy case. An unidentified SVR official told the Russian newspaper Izvestia that the couple was part of a group that had retired from the agency. Such sleeping agents could still be used as a mailbox for occasional communication with other agents, but are otherwise left alone.

Again, encrypted messages over shortwave radio were used to send operational messages to illegal agents, operating in foreign countries. It shows that such communications are still popular and regarded as a secure way to communicate... unless you're caught red-handed. Most likely, not their way of communicating, but extensive BKA surveillance made it possible to caught them in the act.

I'm sure we will hear more about this new spy case in the next few days and weeks. Any new information will be added to this blog post...

More about this espionage case is found on the press release of the German Attorney General (translation), the full story in Spiegel Online International and The Moscow Times (both in English), an Oberhessische Presse news videoDeutsche Well in EnglishFocus (transl.), Russia Today, Ria Novosti and news video on 1TV First Channel Russia (transl.).

More on espionage communications through shortwave radio is found on my blogs Spies and Numbers, Cuban Agent Communications and on my website page on Numbers Stations. On my weblog, you can also find posts on the June 2010 arrest of the SVR spy ring in the United States, related to the couple, now arrested in Germany, the U.S. - Russian spy exchange, and a follow-up on the U.S. spy ring. An example of industrial espionage in the KGB era is found on this blog post. Much more to discover under the blog espionage label.

The story at Russia Today (direct link to RT):


Ericssson said...

this is wrong the GSG9 is from the bundespolizei

Dirk Rijmenants said...

Hi Ericsson, indeed, I make a mistake there, GSG 9 is part of the Bundespolizei. Already corrected! Thanks for the tip.