By Jonny Tickle
Law enforcement officers in Moscow have detained three men on suspicion of leaking the data of private citizens that opposition figure Alexey Navalny later used in his investigations, Russian media has reported, citing a source.
The three men who worked for a private detective agency used the darknet to sell addresses, telephone numbers, and other personal data to paying clients, according to a law enforcement source cited by news agency TASS. The group allegedly used forged court orders and fake police documents to obtain the information.
“Navalny used some of the information obtained by the detainees for one of his investigations,” the source told TASS on Monday, who named the suspects as Pyotr Katkov, Alexander Zelentsov, and Igor Zaitsev.
However, the suspects did not know that one of their clients was Navalny, the source claimed.
Moscow’s Basmanny court confirmed the three have now been placed under house arrest, facing charges of document forgery and violating the secrecy of telephone conversations.
While it is not known precisely what the leaked information was used for, the anonymous Telegram channel Baza has reported that the three private detectives obtained phone data that was used by Navalny’s team to investigate his alleged poisoning.
In August of last year, Navalny fell ill on a flight to Moscow from the Siberian city of Tomsk. After a forced emergency landing in Omsk, he was taken to hospital. A few days later, after requests from his family, he was flown to Germany, where he was treated in Berlin’s Charite Clinic.
According to the doctors who treated him in Germany, Navalny was exposed to the nerve agent Novichok, and many Western nations have accused the Russian state of being directly behind the alleged poisoning.
Last December, journalists from the Netherlands-based investigative collective Bellingcat, Russian-language outlet the Insider, America’s CNN, and Germany’s Der Spiegel produced a report claiming Navalny was attacked by Federal Security Service (FSB) officers. The group also claimed he was followed for months. Leaked databases obtained on the darknet were an integral part of the investigation, including phone geolocation data and airplane ticket information.
The FSB has denied all allegations presented in the report, calling it a “planned provocation aimed at discrediting the FSB and its employees,” accusing the journalists of working with foreign intelligence services.
In March this year, Moscow daily Kommersant reported that a Russian police officer had been put under house arrest on suspicion of leaking information from the country’s centralized database of travel records, which is available only to law enforcement. The newspaper claims that the officer searched for data from Navalny’s flight S7 2614 and “transferred it to a third party.”
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