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16 June, 2024
 
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Austrian spy allegedly passed data to Russian operatives

Russian ties and high-stakes espionage: Austria's deepening crisis

Newsroom

Austria is reeling from what authorities are calling its most significant espionage scandal in decades. At the center of the storm is the arrest of Egisto Ott, a former intelligence officer whose alleged actions have unveiled a web of Russian infiltration and manipulation within the country.

According to a report on AP, Ott's arrest on March 29 sent shockwaves through Austria's security establishment. The 86-page arrest warrant, obtained by The Associated Press, paints a picture worthy of a spy novel. Among the damning allegations are claims that Ott handed over sensitive cellphone data of former high-ranking Austrian officials to Russian intelligence operatives. But that's just the tip of the iceberg.

According to the warrant, Ott is suspected of collaborating with Jan Marsalek, a fugitive Austrian wanted on suspicion of fraud since the collapse of German payment company Wirecard in 2020. Marsalek, who is believed to have connections to Russian intelligence, is alleged to have been the mastermind behind a range of illicit activities.

The scope of Ott's alleged involvement is staggering. He is accused of not only providing sensitive information to Marsalek but also aiding in a burglary at the apartment of a prominent journalist and even offering "suggestions for improvement" after a Russian-ordered killing in Germany.

The ties between Ott, Marsalek, and other key figures in Austrian intelligence are raising serious questions about the country's security apparatus. Ott's close relationship with Martin Weiss, a former chief of Austrian intelligence operations, is particularly troubling. Prosecutors allege that Weiss, after leaving the intelligence agency, began working for Marsalek and Wirecard, passing orders from Marsalek and Russian operatives to Ott.

The allegations don't stop there. Ott is also accused of collecting sensitive information on behalf of Russian authorities by scouring national police databases and making requests to other European police officers. The warrant details a long list of individuals who were reportedly spied on, including Russian dissidents and former FSB officers.

But perhaps the most alarming revelation is Ott's alleged involvement in a burglary targeting investigative journalist Christo Grozev. Grozev, known for his investigations into Russian intelligence operations, was forced to relocate from Vienna after Austrian authorities informed him they could no longer guarantee his safety.

As Austria grapples with the fallout from the scandal, questions are being raised about how such extensive infiltration could have gone unnoticed for so long. Chancellor Karl Nehammer has vowed to bolster the country's security measures, while Justice Minister Alma Zadic plans to tighten espionage laws to prevent future breaches.

As Ott awaits his fate in custody, the full extent of Austria's espionage saga is yet to be uncovered. But one thing is clear: the implications of this scandal will be felt for years to come.

[With information sourced from AP]

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