Russian Banker Sentenced in Connection with Conspiracy to Work for Russian Intelligence
Evgeny Buryakov, aka Zhenya, 41, was sentenced to 30 months in prison today for conspiring to act in the United States as an agent of the Russian Federation without providing prior notice to the Attorney General.
The sentence was announced by Assistant Attorney General for National Security John P. Carlin and U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara of the Southern District of New York.
“Evgeny Buryakov is being held accountable for his efforts to secretly operate as a Russian foreign intelligence officer in the United States,” said Assistant Attorney General Carlin. “Foreign intelligence officers attempting to illegally collect information pose a direct threat to our national security. Working with our law enforcement and intelligence partners at tracking down and disrupting these clandestine operations against our country will continue to remain one of the National Security Division’s highest priorities.”
“Evgeny Buryakov, in the guise of being a legitimate banker, gathered intelligence as an agent of the Russian Federation in New York,” said U.S. Attorney Bharara. “He traded coded messages with one of his Russian spy co-defendants, who sent the clandestinely collected information back to Moscow. So long as this type of Cold War-style spy intrigue continues to go on in present-day New York City, the FBI and the prosecutors in my office will continue to investigate and prosecute it.”
According to the complaint, indictment, other court filings and statements made during court proceedings:
Beginning in at least 2012, Buryakov worked in the United States as an agent of Russia’s foreign intelligence agency, known as the SVR. Buryakov operated under non-official cover, meaning he entered and remained in the United States as a private citizen, posing as an employee in the New York office of a Russian bank, Vnesheconombank (VEB). SVR agents operating under such non-official cover (NOCs) are typically subject to less scrutiny by the host government and, in many cases, are never identified as intelligence agents by the host government. As a result, an NOC is an extremely valuable intelligence asset for the SVR.
Federal law prohibits individuals from acting as agents of foreign governments within the United States without prior notification to the Attorney General. Department of Justice records indicate that Buryakov never notified the Attorney General that he was, in fact, an agent of the Russian Federation.
Buryakov worked in New York with at least two other SVR agents, Igor Sporyshev and Victor Podobnyy. From on or about Nov. 22, 2010, to on or about Nov. 21, 2014, Sporyshev officially served as a trade representative of the Russian Federation in New York. From on or about Dec. 13, 2012, to on or about Sept. 12, 2013, Podobnyy officially served as an attaché to the Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the United Nations. The investigation, however, showed that Sporyshev and Podobnyy also worked as officers of the SVR.
The directives from the SVR to Buryakov, Sporyshev and Podobnyy, as well as to other covert SVR agents acting within the United States, included requests to gather intelligence on, among other subjects, potential U.S. sanctions against Russian banks and the United States’ efforts to develop alternative energy resources.
During the course of their work as covert SVR agents in the United States, Buryakov, Sporyshev and Podobnyy regularly met and communicated using clandestine methods and coded messages in order to exchange intelligence-related information while shielding their associations with one another as SVR agents.
In the summer of 2014, Buryakov met multiple times with a confidential source working for the FBI and an FBI undercover employee, both of whom purported to be working on a casino development project in Russia. During these meetings, Buryakov accepted documents that were purportedly obtained from a U.S. government agency and which supposedly contained information potentially useful to Russia, including information about U.S. sanctions against Russia.
For their alleged roles in the conspiracy, Sporyshev and Podobnyy are charged with conspiracy to act in the United States as an agent of a foreign government without first notifying the Attorney General, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison. They are also charged with aiding and abetting Buryakov’s actions in the United States as an agent of a foreign government without first notifying the Attorney General, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison. These maximum potential sentences are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendants will be determined by a judge. The charges against Sporyshev and Podobnyy are merely accusations, and those defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty. Sporyshev and Podobnyy no longer live in the United States and have not been arrested. By virtue of their prior positions in the United States on behalf of Russia, both of them were afforded diplomatic immunity from arrest and prosecution while in the United States.
Assistant Attorney General Carlin joined U.S. Attorney Bharara in praising the investigative work of the FBI’s Counterintelligence Division.
The prosecution is being handled by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Stephen J. Ritchin, Emil J. Bove III, Brendan F. Quigley, Anna M. Skotko and Ian McGinley of the Southern District of New York, with assistance provided by Senior Trial Attorney Heather Schmidt of the National Security Division’s Counterintelligence and Export Control Section.