A Greek national who headed Brabant-based satellite technology firm Aratos has been arrested in Paris and charged with spying for Russia, according to FBI documents.
The man, Nikos Bogonikolos, was arrested on May 9 and remains in custody pending extradition proceedings, the FBI said. Bogonikolos is the founder of the Greek conglomerate Aratos Group, a collection of defense and technology companies in the Netherlands and Greece.
“As alleged, while ostensibly operating as a defense contractor for Nato and other ally countries, the defendant and his Aratos Group were double dealing, helping to fuel Russia’s war effort and their development of next generation weapons,” according to a statement by US attorney Breon Peace.
Aratos has immediately been suspended as a member of Dutch defence company umbrella group NIDV, the Telegraaf reported. ‘There is a mole in the middle of the Dutch defence industry,’ one member told the paper.
In 2021, Aratos Systems BV, which started in the Netherlands in 2016, was one of the finalists in the NATO Innovation Challenge finalists.
The FBI document states that Bogonikolos was probably recruited by Russia around 2017, when he was asked to visit Moscow alone “since the agenda will be a very sensitive one.” It claims he has been has been involved in smuggling US origin military and dual-use technologies to Russia since then.
‘These highly regulated and sensitive components included advanced electronics and sophisticated testing equipment used in military applications, including quantum cryptography and nuclear weapons testing, as well as tactical battlefield equipment,’ the FBI statement said.
“The defendant claimed that these items were to be used by Aratos when in reality they were illegally reshipped and sent to Russia.” In one case, Bogonikolos “advised that he would falsify an export license, saying ‘I sign that the items are only for Netherlands’,” the FBI said.
Last October, the head of the Dutch military secret service said Dutch high-tech companies are unknowingly selling their technologies to companies set up by the Russian secret service.
MIVD chief Jan Swillens told, the head of the Dutch military secret service told the Financieele Dagblad 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.
In March last year, 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 in October 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.
Dutch News has asked the NIDV to comment.
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