U.S. authorities now have in custody the highest-ranking Kremlin insider "in recent memory," according to Bloomberg News. Vladislav Klyushin, 41, a Russian tech mogul with close ties to the Kremlin, was arrested in Switzerland in March 2021 and extradited to the U.S. on Dec. 18 after prosecutors charged him with committing tens of millions of dollars’ worth of illegal insider trades using hacked corporate earnings information. U.S. officials unveiled those charges in Boston on Dec. 20 in the U.S. District Court of Massachusetts.
But the securities fraud case against Klyushin seems more a means to an end considering the tech tycoon received a medal of honor from Russian President Vladimir Putin just 18 months earlier. Russian intelligence has reportedly determined that Klyushin could access a trove of documents detailing the extensive effort by Russia's GRU military intelligence to hack Democratic Party servers in 2016. If Klyushin decides to cooperate with U.S. authorities, it could provide a big breakthrough for what appears to be an ongoing investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
“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,” said Michael McFaul, former U.S. ambassador to Russia in the Obama administration.
According to the insider trading indictment, Klyushin's IT company, M-13, worked for the Russian presidency and governmental agencies. Also named in the indictment was Ivan Yermakov, a former military intelligence official who was indicted in 2018 as part of special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in 2016.
But the intriguing part of Klyushin's capture in Switzerland may be that he traveled there at all.
Bloomberg reports that Klyushin was "approached by U.S. and U.K. spy agencies in the two years before his exit from Russia and received heightened levels of security in Switzerland." He also curiously failed to make a final appeal challenging his extradition to the U.S. after both U.S. and Russian officials had been competing to win his extradition from Switzerland following his arrest there.
“It underscores the risk that anybody, billionaires or others close to the Russian state, face when they break American laws if they travel abroad,” McFaul noted.