AIVD exposes espionage network in the Netherlands; two Russian intelligence officers forced to leave the country

Recently the General Intelligence and Security Service ("Algemene Inlichtingen- en Veiligheidsdienst" – AIVD) disrupted the covert activities of an intelligence officer of the Russian civil intelligence agency SVR. The intelligence officer - who worked at the Russian Embassy in The Hague with diplomatic accreditation - engaged in espionage activities in the field of science and technology. He built a substantial network of sources, all of whom work or used to work within the  Dutch high-tech sector.

Image: ©ANP

The Russian intelligence officer contacted individuals who had access to sensitive information in the field of high-tech. Some of these individuals received payment from the intelligence officer in exchange for information.

A second Russian SVR intelligence officer, who also worked at the Russian Embassy in The Hague with diplomatic accreditation, played a supporting role. Both intelligence officers have been declared persona non grata by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Consequently they are no longer allowed to work as diplomats in the Netherlands, and they will have to leave the country forthwith.

AIVD protects the strategic interests of the Netherlands

The economy of the Netherlands is highly developed, innovative, and with a strong international orientation, which makes it a desirable target for espionage.

Erik Akerboom, director general of the AIVD: "The AIVD is committed to mitigating, and where possible preventing, the adverse effects of espionage on our economy and our national security. We protect our country’s strategic interests by gathering intelligence and using that information to expose espionage. That way we can disrupt these espionage attempts, as we have done here. At the same time we create awareness in our society of the dangers of espionage, and we explain to companies, government agencies and educational institutions how they can help prevent it."

The Dutch economy and national security

The high-tech industry is a source of sophisticated and unique knowledge. It is very likely that the exposed espionage actions harmed the organisations where the sources are or were active, and consequently may also have caused damage the Dutch economy and our national security. 

Among the subjects that the Russian intelligence officer was interested in, were artificial intelligence, semiconductors, and nanotechnology. This technology has civil as well as military applications, including in weapons systems.

Harmed organisations informed; sources approached and confronted

The Russian intelligence officer's sources were approached by the AIVD in order to disrupt their activities.

For a number of cases the AIVD issued an official report to the companies and an institution for higher education involved, so that they can take steps.

In one instance an official AIVD report was issued to the Dutch Immigration and Naturalisation Service (Immigratie- en Naturalisatiedienst – IND), which will allow the IND to take legal steps against this source under immigration law. The AIVD is investigating whether additional official reports can be issued to the IND.

No further information will be given on the identities of the sources, or the names of the companies and the institution for higher education involved. 

Government begins legislative process to make espionage punishable by law

Because the Netherlands is becoming more vulnerable to espionage, the government is investigating whether in addition to already existing legal measures, espionage should be made punishable by law. 

The criminal code already provides legal steps in relation to crimes involving breaches of official, state, or trade secrets. However, espionage – the covert collaboration with persons working for a foreign intelligence service – is in itself not a crime.

The government has concluded that it is necessary that espionage be punishable by law and to that end it will proceed with an investigation to see what would be the best way to achieve this. Once this process is completed, the legislative process will be initiated.