Russian firms use front companies to buy Dutch tech, security service says

Embassy of Russia in The Hague
Embassy of Russia in The Hague Photo: Roman Lukaschuk via Wikimedia Commons
Embassy of Russia in The Hague
The Russian embassy in The Hague Photo: Roman Lukaschuk via Wikimedia Commons

Dutch high-tech companies are unknowingly selling their technologies to companies set up by the Russian secret service, the head of the Dutch military secret service has told the Financieele Dagblad.

MIVD chief Jan Swillens told the paper in an interview that the Russian military intelligence organisation GRU has set up front organisations and companies with the aim of purchasing technology in the Netherlands and smuggling it to Russia for military purposes, thus evading sanctions.

The products range from microchips to industrial paint and rubber for the tyres of military vehicles, Swillens said.

‘This has been happening since the annexation of Crimea, but with the war in Ukraine it is increasing significantly,’ Swillens said and he urged the tech sector to conduct more thorough research into its customers.

Swillens declined to name names, but the FD said the products involved have both civilian and military end uses.


The MIVD informed defence minister Kajsa Ollongren about the smuggling routes a few months ago, the FD said.

In March, the foreign affairs ministry expelled 17 Russian diplomats for espionage, some of whom worked for GRU and were tasked with purchasing knowledge and technology for the Russian army.

And last month a 55-year-old man from the east of the Netherlands was arrested on suspicion of supplying microchips to Russia, in defiance of EU sanctions.


Leiden University security service researcher Ben de Jong told the FD that there is a great deal of naivety in the Netherlands.

‘There is very little sense of the Russian interest in our technology and political knowledge,’ he said. ‘People can’t see why the Russians would want to spy here. But you need to remember that as a Nato country, we know a lot about the Americans and our other allies.’

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