05 Oct 2018
AP — April 12 was supposed to be another day on the job for Alexei Morenets, the balding 41-year-old alleged to be an on-site hacking specialist for Russian military intelligence.
Morenets’ work for the agency, often abbreviated as GRU, was said to involve using specialized equipment to break into Wi-Fi networks and leapfrog onto victims’ computers.
An FBI indictment made public Thursday alleged that he had already worked in Brazil, where he traveled twice to Rio de Janeiro to try to break into networks used by anti-doping officials before and during the 2016 Olympics.
According to the indictment, he later went to Lausanne, Switzerland, checking into a hotel near where a senior anti-doping official was staying and helping others break into the complimentary Wi-Fi.
But on that spring day, when Morenets rolled into a Marriott Hotel parking lot in The Hague, things went horribly wrong for him and three Russian colleagues.
He and Alexey Minin, Oleg Sotnikov and Yevgeny Serebryakov were ambushed and detained by Dutch counterintelligence officers as they tried to break into the Wi-Fi of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, a global watchdog agency.
The men were expelled from the Netherlands instead of arrested, because they were traveling on diplomatic passports.
The episode was recounted in unusually explicit detail in the U.S. indictment and at a dramatic news conference in the Netherlands on Thursday.
The Dutch released photos of the men’s sequentially numbered diplomatic passports, electronic snooping equipment in the trunk of their car and displays of euros and $100 bills. B
ut among the most damning pieces of evidence was a taxi receipt allegedly seized from Morenets and showing an April 10 trip from GRU headquarters in Moscow to the capital’s international airport.
News organizations, including The Associated Press, sought to corroborate the allegations, a replay of the open-source scavenger hunt that followed the outing of two alleged GRU agents after the poisoning of former GRU officer Sergei Skripal and his daughter in England, or the U.S. indictment of 12 GRU officers in July in the hacking of computers in order to interfere with the 2016 presidential election.
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