The Russian spy who posed as a Brazilian to infiltrate the International Criminal Court

0
33

A Russian spy tried to infiltrate the International Criminal Court (ICC), according to the Dutch security service.

The man used the name Viktor Muller Ferreira and pretended to be Brazilian, but was refused entry when he arrived in the Netherlands for work.

The authorities point out that his real name is Sergey Vladimirovich Cherkasov and that he is a spy for the GRU, an acronym forthe service of russian military intelligenceeither.

The man is said to have spent years building a false identity, before applying for an internship at the ICC in The Hague.

The Dutch security agency, AIVD, said that if the spy had succeeded in taking over and infiltrating the organization, could have caused real damage.

“The threat posed by this intelligence officer is considered potentially very high,” the IAWD said in a statement.

For those who knew him, Viktor Muller Ferreira was a Brazilian interested in international affairs. But in reality, he assured the AIDL, he was a particular type of Russian spy known as “illegal”.

Russian intelligence uses that term to differentiate these officers from “legal” spies posing as undercover diplomats.

very few in the world

Many countries use spies who pretend to be ordinary people, but Russia has long specialized in a type of undercover illegal agent who adopts a completely different nationality.

These spies pose as Americans, British, Canadians or, in Ferreira’s case, Brazilians so they can move in circles where the Russians would be greeted with suspicion and therefore find it more difficult for them to operate.

The IADL published an extraordinary document believed to have been written by Cherkasov around 2010, in which he describes his false identity, probably in order to remember every detail of it.

“I am Viktor Muller Ferreira”, can be read at the beginning of the text.

The discovery of the document indicates a remarkable degree of carelessness on the part of the spy.

across four pages Review your family history.

“My father was a very friendly and open person, but to my surprise I discovered that I blamed him for the death of my mother and my aunt and all the difficulties and humiliations that I had to suffer in my life,” says Ferreira.

He also made reference to having to go to Ireland for his father’s funeral.

It can take five to 10 years to train an illegal agent and build their false identity..

Given the challenges, there are not believed to be many illegal spies, perhaps fewer than 30 from the GRU, according to Western estimates.

Getty Images
The Dutch security agency said that if the spy had succeeded in infiltrating the ICC he could have caused real damage.

Russian intelligence has long focused on the ICC, and Ferreira is believed to have started pushing for an internship late last year.

The importance of the court has grown since Russia invaded Ukraine. On March 3, the ICC prosecutor opened an investigation into war crimes and crimes against humanity in Ukraine..

The ICC offers some 200 unpaid internships that give candidates the opportunity to “gain exposure to the day-to-day work environment of the ICC and put their knowledge and experience to work under the supervision of professionals.”

The position would have provided Cherkasov valuable access.

“If the intelligence officer had been successful in starting to work with the ICC, he would have been able to collect intelligence and seek (or recruit) sources and gain access to the ICC’s digital systems,” the AIVD said in a statement.

That way he would have been able to make a significant contribution to the GRU. It could also have influenced ICC criminal proceedings.

Applying was a risk for a spy, but his bosses in Moscow must have decided it was worth taking.

Illegal spies are notoriously hard to find (this one is not believed to have been detected by the ICC) and Dutch authorities did not say how he was identified.

Many friends

Social media profiles reviewed by the BBC and believed to belong to Ferreira reveal an extensive list of friends, including several international students from two institutions he appears to have attended: Johns Hopkins University in the United States and Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland.

Those friends now work in everything from the investment bank Goldman Sachs to federal regulatory agencies in Washington. None of them would know for sure that their acquaintance was a Russian spy.

He had an accent I couldn’t place. But he was not Russian“, an academic who was a professor at Ferreira told the BBC.

The spy is believed to have filed an application with the ICC as early as September 2020, but its processing may have been delayed due to the covid pandemic.

“Brazil is underrepresented at the ICC, so this could be my chance!” Ferreira said at one point.

A profile notes that Ferreira moved to Washington DC in August 2018 and a record shows that graduated from Johns Hopkins in 2020.

His social media posts reveal an eclectic mix of views, including some that are mildly critical of Russia, which could be interpreted as an attempt to continue building a false identity.

In one of his accounts he appears to have even published a report by the investigative group Bellingcat on the discovery of online identities used by the GRU, a rather unusual move for someone who is now accused of being an undercover GRU agent himself.

However, now that his true identity has been discovered, his future as an undercover spy is over.


Now you can receive notifications from BBC World. Download the new version of our app and activate it so you don’t miss out on our best content.

Comments are closed.