Dutch security service AIVD has unmasked two Russian diplomats as spies who were trying to get hold of information relating to high tech companies.
The two have been declared ‘persona non grata’ and ordered to leave the country, the AIVD said in a statement on Thursday. Both were based at the Russian embassy in The Hague.
One of the two had built up a substantial network in the high tech industry while the other had a supporting role the AIVD said. Some of their sources were paid for their information.
In particular, the two were interested in information about artificial intelligence, semi-conductors and nano technology, all of which have a military as well as a civilian role.
‘The Dutch high tech sector is high value and has unique knowledge,’ home affairs minister Kasja Ollongren told MPs in a briefing on the incident. ‘The espionage is very likely to have damaged the organisations where the sources were active, and therefore possibly the Dutch economy and national security.’
The AIVD said it was able to shut down the operation by speaking to their sources. The source employers, other companies and one university have also been briefed, the AIVD said.
At least one of the sources is a foreigner and will be ‘subject to immigration service measures’ and the AIVD is investigating whether special measures can be applied to others, the briefing said.
The incident is not the first in recent years to involve Russian spies. In 2018 Dutch intelligence agencies thwarted an attempt by Russian agents to hack into the wi-fi network of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, based in The Hague. Four agents from the GRU military intelligence service were expelled.