In December, the Russian security service arrested four senior cybersecurity experts as a result of an investigation into the hacking of US Democratic Party emails. The arrests could see further evidence revealed that explains how that hacking helped Trump to win the presidency. It could also provide Russian President Vladimir Putin with another ‘blackmail’ lever to use against Trump.
Meanwhile, a former KGB chief has been found dead under mysterious circumstances.
The four men arrested are no lightweights. They include [Russian] Sergei Mikhailov, the most senior cybersecurity officer in Russia’s Federal Security Bureau (FSB, formerly KGB). Mikhailov is accused of treason – specifically, of taking bribes from an unspecified foreign organisation, so as to share data on Russian hacking.
Others arrested include Dmitry Dokuchaev (also of the FSB) and Ruslan Stoyanov [LinkedIn], the lead cybercrime investigator at Kaspersky Labs. Kaspersky is one of the largest cybersecurity firms in Europe. An unidentified man has also been arrested.
According to The Moscow Times, a report in Novaya Gazeta claims Mikhailov implicated Vladimir Fomenko and his server rental company King Servers. In September 2016, ThreatConnect (a US cyber investigations agency) accused King Servers of involvement in the hacking of the Arizona and Illinois voting systems. And according to The New York Times, Fomenko claims he was unaware that this had happened until ThreatConnect released its findings.
Stoyanov was in charge of investigating the alleged hacking for Kaspersky Labs. He has been charged with treason. There is speculation that he passed on details of the hacking to US intelligence agents investigating alleged Russian interference in the US elections. But according to Forbes, Stoyanov’s arrest is in connection with the bribery allegations levelled against Mikhailov.
Teddy bears picnicking or hacking?
Then there are the teddy bear hackers.
ThreatConnect has accused the FSB of being the base for hacking group ‘Cozy Bear’. The GRU (Russia’s equivalent of the America’s National Security Agency (NSA)) is accused of being the base for hackers at ‘Fancy Bear‘ (aka APT 28, Strontium, and the Sofacy Group). German intelligence has agreed [German pdf] with ThreatConnect’s assessments.
Forgive the lengthy quotation, but this material is important, and any summary I would offer would be as compact as the original.
The courageous Maxine Waters wants an investigation of Trump's Russian ties, but I'm pretty sure that she won't get any GOP support. For now, Trump is too useful to those Republicans who want to get rid of Social Security and Medicare.
But if the investigations do get off the ground, I'd like them to pay special attention to the dossier's claim that 19 percent of Rozneft (the Russian oil company) would be sold to Trump in exchange for the lifting of sanctions on Russia -- an impeachable act of bribery, if the allegation is true. As discussed earlier, the dossier proved to be prophetic: 19.5 percent of Rozneft was sold to mysterious offshore parties.
The deal had reportedly surprised both Rosneft shareholders and the Russian government, with sources asserting that the privatization had been handled exclusively between Rosneft president Igor Sechin and Russian President Vladimir Putin's Kremlin. The Rosneft board of directors reportedly was not even aware of the privatization until it was publicly announced on Dec. 7, 2016, Reuters reports.
Associate fellow Lilia Shevtsova of the Russia and Eurasia program at Chatham House noted that the privatization deal had to have had input from Putin's Kremlin.
Popular Video A judge looked this inmate straight in the eyes and said something that left the entire courtroom in tears.
"In Russia we have a marriage between power and business, and that is why all important economic deals need approval and the endorsement of the authorities," Shevtsova told Business Insider. "This was a very serious commercial deal that hardly could have succeeded without the direct involvement with the Kremlin."
Rosneft's announcement of who has invested in their company has also been contradicted by journalistic investigations. While the Russian oil company asserted that the 19.5 percent stake, the largest foreign investment in Russia since the Obama administration slapped the country with stiff sanctions in 2014, was sold to a Singapore venture shared equally between the Swiss trading firm Glencore and Qatar's Qatari Investment Authority (QIA), the numbers do not add up.
Records of the deal found that Glencore had only contributed roughly $320 million U.S. dollars to the deal, which altogether cost roughly $11 billion, meaning that the oil trading firm had only invested 0.54 percent in a venture that both Putin and Sechin described as a 50-50 split.
Meanwhile, QIA invested roughly $2.7 billion while Italian bank Intesa SanPaolo reportedly loaned roughly $5.6 billion to the Singapore-based venture, meaning that nearly a third of the price of the 19.5 percent stake has not been accounted for.
Public records also included that ownership for the stake in Rosneft also belongs to a Cayman Islands firm that cannot be identified, meaning that a crucial investor in the Russian oil company remains a mystery. The companies involved have also declined to answer how the 19.5 stake in Rosneft will be divided up between them.
Which is where the unverified dossier alleging ties between Putin's government and the Trump campaign comes in. That document had alleged that Carter Page, a former foreign policy adviser to Trump, had met with Rosneft's Sechin in July 2016, according to Business Insider.
The dossier further alleged that Sechin had "offered Page and his associates the brokerage of up to a 19 percent (privatized) stake in Rosneft. ... In return, Page had expressed interest and confirmed that were Trump elected U.S. president, then sanctions on Russia would be lifted."
On Jan. 12, White House press secretary Sean Spicer told reporters that "Page is an individual whom the President-elect does not know and was put on notice months ago by the campaign."
Spicer's assertion was contradicted by an interview Trump had given in March 2016, when he stated that Page was among his foreign policy advisers, CNN reports.
The intelligence document alleging Page's talks with Sechin has not been verified and must be viewed with skepticism, but its accusation that the Rosneft president had offered Page the brokerage of a 19 percent privatization of the oil company was predictive of the 19.5 percent stake sold to the Singapore venture, whose investors include a mysterious Cayman Islands firm.
The dossier detailing Page's alleged talks with Sechin has not been substantiated by evidence, but given the potentially devastating accusations of quid pro quo by the Trump campaign and Russia and in light of the mysteriousness of who now owns a 19.5 percent stake in Russia's most prominent oil company, the matter might merit an investigation.
Gee, ya think?
Now here's the kicker:
The U.S. Treasury Department would be tasked with examining any potential connections between the Trump campaign and the Rosneft deal, but that agency will potentially be headed by Trump's appointee to Treasury Secretary, former Goldman Sachs executive Steve Mnuchin, who is currently awaiting Senate confirmation, according to Washington Monthly.
Senate Democrats are raising questions about whether Steve Mnuchin, President Donald Trump's treasury secretary nominee, deliberately misled lawmakers at his confirmation hearing.
The concerns center on the extent of foreign investment in a series of finance entities Mnuchin helped manage, including one based offshore in the Cayman Islands, aides tell CNN.
Let's put this together. 19.5 percent of Rozneft was sold to a mysterious business concern located (at least on paper) in the Cayman Islands. The "cop on the beat" overlooking this business would be Steve Mnuchin, who has been accused of hiding from Congress his involvement in a mysterious business concern located in -- guess where? -- the Cayman Islands.