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Greek businessman arrested by the FBI for espionage

Featured Greek businessman arrested by the FBI for espionage

American authorities arrested a Greek businessman in Paris for spying for Russia.

According to the FBI, this is Nikos Bogonikolos, who was arrested on May 9 in Paris and remains in custody, pending the resolution of extradition proceedings.

Nikos Bogonikolos was charged by a federal court in Brooklyn with espionage and smuggling.

He reportedly conspired to obtain sensitive technological material used in quantum computing and nuclear testing to further Russia's defense research and development, the US Justice Department said in a statement.

Permanent resident of Athens, originally from Patras

Nikos Bogonikolos is originally from Patras and is the owner of Aratos Group (founded in 2003). He was arrested in Paris on May 9, 2023 and remains in custody pending extradition to the US.

Aratos Group includes several companies based in Greece and the Netherlands, which have experience in topics such as "Space technologies", "Homeland Security" and Blockchain technologies used in cryptocurrencies.

Nikos Bogonicolos has written the book "The New Blockchain Economy" and according to the FBI he holds a bachelor's and a doctorate from the National University of Economics in Kharkiv, Ukraine, with studies in mathematics.

A permanent resident of Athens for the last few years, Nikos Bogonikolos was active in Patras while in the past he was also involved in basketball as the owner of Olympiadas Patras, when he was competing in the A1 category, while he was also involved with the PAOK volleyball and Pagratio basketball teams.

According to pelop.gr, one of the company's subsidiaries, it was a finalist in the NATO Innovation Challenge for space applications in 2021 for a proposal that involved the use of artificial intelligence and blockchain technology for satellites and spacecraft. The defendant appeared to have experience advising the European Parliament and "governments worldwide" and Aratos supplied defense equipment and related technologies to countries in the Middle East, Africa and Asia.

Involved in smuggling?

According to the complaint, since 2017 Bogonikolos has allegedly been involved in smuggling US-origin military and dual-use technologies into Russia in violation of US law. The sensitive components included advanced electronics and sophisticated test equipment used in military applications, including quantum cryptography and nuclear weapons testing, as well as tactical battlefield equipment.

He claimed that these items were to be used by Aratos, when in fact they were re-shipped to Russia in violation of US law. Some of the Russian end users included nuclear and quantum research facilities, as well as Military Unit 33949, part of Russia's Foreign Intelligence Service, known as the SVR.

According to the complaint, many of these orders were requested by Serniya Engineering and Sertal LLC (the Serniya Network), Moscow-based companies operating under the direction of Russian intelligence services. Following Russia's February 2022 invasion of Ukraine, the U.S. Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) and the Department of Commerce's Office of Industry and Security (DOC) imposed sanctions against Serniya, Sertal, and several individuals and companies used in the design, calling them "organic to the war machine of the Russian Federation".

Russia hired him as a procurement agent in 2017

According to the indictment, Bogonikolos is said to have been hired as a procurement agent for Russia in 2017. In an email message with an affiliate of Serniya on December 27, 2017, the defendant was told to travel alone to Moscow “since the agenda will be a very sensitive one." Regarding a subsequent order, the defendant advised that he would falsify an export permit, saying “I declare that the items are for the Netherlands only. Sensitive case. For the same reason I cannot pressure the (US) supplier." The defendant signed several false end-use statements and provided them to US companies, certifying that the company was the end user of the requested items, that the company would not re-export the goods elsewhere, and that they would not be used for weapons development.

Authorities involved

Assistant US Attorney Artie McConnell and District Attorney Scott A. Claffee of the Department of Homeland Security's Counterintelligence and Export Control Division are handling the case, with assistance provided by Litigation Analyst Ben Richmond.

Investigative support was provided by the Department of Justice's Bureau of International Affairs with the United States thanking French authorities for their assistance.

The investigation was also coordinated through the Justice Department's KleptoCapture Task Force, an interagency law enforcement task force dedicated to enforcing sanctions, export controls and economic countermeasures imposed in response to Russia's unprovoked military invasion of Ukraine.