A Kremlin insider extradited to the United States last month on charges of wire and securities fraud may have key details about Russia’s attempts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election campaign and the hacking of Democratic Party computers, according to reports.
Vladislav Klyushin — who runs a Moscow-based cybersecurity firm — has worked with the Russian government, has ties to a former Russian GRU military intelligence officer and 18 months ago received a medal of honor from Russian President Vladimir Putin, the reports said.
Russian intelligence believes Klyushin has access to documents related to Moscow’s campaign to hack into the Democratic National Committee’s servers in 2016 and leak information to the media intended to damage Hillary Clinton’s chances to win the presidency, Bloomberg News reported, citing sources.
The documents would show that the cyberattack was directed by Russian military intelligence.
“You may be seeing the signs that they are continuing to pursue this case, with real big implications for exposing in even greater detail what the Russians did to influence the outcome of our election,” Michael McFaul, former US ambassador to Russia under President Barack Obama, told Bloomberg.
McFaul called Klyushin’s extradition a “serious concern” for Moscow that “underscores the risk that anybody, billionaires or others close to the Russian state, face when they break American laws if they travel abroad.”
Christopher Krebs, former head of the US Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, told CNN that Klyushin’s arrest represents a potential “gold mine” for US intelligence.
“This is a big get for a few reasons: If he flips, he may be able to confirm the intelligence community’s findings about Russian efforts to interfere in the 2016 election,” Krebs said.
If Klyushin refuses to cooperate, Krebs added, a conviction could send “a strong signal to others like him that they don’t have a whole lot of freedom of movement outside Russia.”
Klyushin, 41, was arrested this past March in Switzerland and extradited to the US on Dec. 18. He has been charged with wire fraud, securities fraud and obtaining unauthorized access to computers, Justice Department documents say.
Prosecutors allege that Klyushin and four others hacked into the computer systems of publicly traded companies that made quarterly and annual filings through the Securities and Exchange Commission between January 2018 and September 2020.
The five plundered earnings information about Tesla, IBM, and Microsoft, among others.
Using this information, “Klyushin and his codefendants allegedly knew ahead of time, among other things, whether a company’s financial performance would meet, exceed, or lag market expectations — and thus whether its share price would likely rise or fall following the public announcement of that performance,” according to the DOJ, who allege that the fivesome “earned tens of millions of dollars in illegal profits.”
One of the four men charged with Klyushin is Ivan Ermakov, also known as Yermakov, a former officer in the GRU, Russian Main Intelligence Directorate — who was among those charged by the Justice Department in 2018 as part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Klyushin was expected to appear in federal court in Boston on Monday, but a paperwork mix-up forced it to be postponed until Wednesday, CNN reported.
Oliver Ciric, a Switzerland-based lawyer for Klyushin, told CNN that Klyushin denies the allegations and “intends to use all available legal remedies in order to ensure his defense.”
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