Former Justice and Homeland Security officials said the work of Vladislav Klyushin’s Moscow-based cybersecurity firm with the Russian government and Klyushin’s alleged relationship with a former Russian military intelligence officer in the GRU will likely be of great interest to US law enforcement and intelligence officials.

The Russian businessman, who is in his early 40s, appeared in Massachusetts federal court by video conference on Monday in what was supposed to be an impeachment hearing. But U.S.-based Klyushin’s attorney Maksim Nemtsev failed to file the documents required for the hearing to proceed, according to trial judge Marianne Bowler. The arraignment hearing is now scheduled for Wednesday.

U.S. prosecutors charged Klyushin and four other Russian men with an elaborate insider trading scheme that involved hacking into companies that Tesla and other companies were using to file Securities and Exchange Commission reports.

The US government has not publicly linked Klyushin to Russian interference in the 2016 election. But one of Klyushin’s co-defendants in the securities fraud case is Ivan Ermakov, who was among a dozen or so. GRU officers indicted in 2018 by a federal grand jury for interfering with the 2016 election by hacking and leaking Democratic National Committee documents.

The Klyushin case is just the latest high-stakes US lawsuit of a Russian national with potentially illuminating links to Russian hacking activity targeting US interests.

Christopher Krebs, former head of the US Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, called Klyushin’s arrest and prosecution a potential “gold mine” for US intelligence because it could shed additional light on the GRU operations against the United States and its allies. “This is a big blow for several reasons: if he turns around, he may be able to confirm the findings of the intelligence community on Russia’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 election,” Krebs said. at CNN.

Even if Klyushin doesn’t cooperate, Krebs said, a securities fraud conviction could send “a strong signal to others like him that they don’t have much freedom of movement outside of Russia.”

Oliver Ciric, a Switzerland-based Klyushin attorney, told CNN in an email that his client denies the allegations of US securities fraud and other US charges and “intends to use all remedies. available to ensure its defense “.

Ciric said U.S. intelligence officials attempted to recruit Klyushin in southern France in 2019 and British intelligence did the same in Edinburgh, Scotland in 2020. Ciric declined to give details of the incidents. , which Bloomberg News first reported.

The US office of the director of national intelligence did not immediately respond to Ciric’s statement. The British Foreign Office declined to comment on CNN.

From the Alps to a Massachusetts prison

Klyushin was arrested in Switzerland in March 2021 while on a ski vacation with this family, according to Ciric. Klyushin was extradited to the United States last month, where he now faces hacking and securities fraud charges over his alleged role in the multi-million dollar scheme between 2018 and 2020.

U.S. prosecutors accuse Klyushin, Ermakov, and their co-conspirators of using access to non-public financial records to earn tens of millions of dollars in stock transactions.

Ermakov worked at Klyushin’s company, M-13, which claims to offer “IT solutions to the presidential administration of the Russian Federation,” among other government agencies, according to its website.

Klyushin wrote to Ermakov, whom the Justice Ministry describes as a former GRU officer, in May 2019, describing the nearly $ 1 million profit the scheme had generated for an account over the previous seven months, according to the American indictment.

Ermakov could not be reached for comment. M-13 did not respond to CNN’s request for comment.

Ciric previously told CNN that the indictment and extradition from the United States was “spurious” and alleged that “the real reason” for Klyushin’s arrest and extradition “relates to the nature of his work. and his contacts within the Russian government ”.

Kellen Dwyer, a former U.S. assistant attorney general, said Klyushin looked like a natural target for U.S. investigators.

“Russia is fighting the extradition of high-level cybercriminals for a number of reasons, including the fact that it does not want the United States to have access to people who can help it better understand the relationship between the Russian intelligence services and cybercriminals, ”said Dwyer, now a cybersecurity partner at law firm Alston & Bird, told CNN. He said he was not aware of any non-public information about Klyushin’s case.

Holden Triplett, a former senior FBI official based in Russia, said the US arrest of Klyushin could jeopardize any Russian intelligence activity that Klyushin or his company was aware of.

“When someone like this has been arrested, any operation of which he becomes aware immediately becomes suspect from a counterintelligence perspective,” Triplett told CNN. “Everything they touched is now under the microscope.”