In a high-profile case, a Polish court has pronounced its verdict, finding 14 individuals from Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine guilty of espionage. The alleged spy ring operated within Poland and accepted crypto payments of up to $10,000 to carry out acts of espionage in support of Russia’s interests.
Crypto-Paid Spy Network Exposed
According to a report by Barron’s, the defendants faced charges last month for various offenses, including plotting to derail trains carrying aid to Ukraine and monitoring critical infrastructure and military facilities in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) member state. The court delivered jail sentences ranging from 13 months to six years.
While delivering the verdict, Judge Jaroslaw Kowalski stated that all the defendants were found guilty of the crimes charged, with some operating within an organized criminal group.
Notably, the 14 defendants were convicted in absentia as they had pleaded guilty and skipped the trial. Two additional alleged spy ring members will face separate trials after withdrawing their initial guilty pleas.
Among those convicted is a Russian ice hockey player Maxim Sergeyev, who received a sentence of 2 years and 11 months. His arrest in June had sparked a strong protest from Moscow, demanding a comprehensive explanation.
Per the report, the spy ring also comprised two Ukrainian lawyers, a political scientist, a French language teacher, a pharmacy technician, and a software engineer, as reported by Rzeczpospolita Daily.
Investigators revealed that the ring members received their orders through the messaging app Telegram and were compensated in crypto. The crypto payments ranged from $300 to around $10,000, according to Polish media.
Espionage With A Crypto Twist
Prosecutor Piotr Lopatynski highlighted the significance of Telegram and cryptocurrency in the espionage network, describing it as a “new and previously unknown method” of organizing such activities in Poland.
Furthermore, the investigation revealed that hidden cameras were discovered on crucial railway routes and junctions, capturing and transmitting data on traffic, which led to the initial arrests.
According to the report, the convicted spies monitored border checkpoints with Ukraine, as well as major rail routes used for the transportation of weapons and humanitarian aid to the neighboring country. Additionally, they were involved in distributing propaganda materials aimed at inciting hatred toward Ukraine.
Overall, the case underscores the tactics of espionage networks and even cybercriminals using encrypted messaging platforms and crypto for their operations.
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