A Russian “sleeper agent” created an elaborate identity as a Brazilian intern in order to infiltrate the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague, Dutch authorities have said.
The Netherlands’ General Intelligence and Security Service exposed the 36-year-old man as an agent for the GRU, the Russian military intelligence agency, denying him entry into the country as a “threat to national security”.
“He was sent back to Brazil on the first flight out,” said the authorities.
The Dutch intelligence agency said the man they identified as Sergey Chekasov had worked in Brazil as an “illegal” and underwent extensive training, spending years building a well-constructed cover identity.
Russian intelligence agencies have not commented on the report.
Note reveals spy’s fake past
The suspected agent was supposed to start his internship at the ICC, which has handled several high-profile cases against war criminals and is looking to launch proceedings to investigate suspected Russian war crimes in Ukraine.
Dutch authorities said the Russian agent would have been able to gather intelligence at the Hague and “look for, or recruit sources and arrange to have access to the ICC’s digital systems”.
Dutch authorities also published a four-page note, which they said was penned by the agent about a decade ago to memorize the complex details of his fake past – or a “legend”, as Russian intelligence agents call it.
The man in the four-page bio calls himself Victor Muller Ferreira, born in Rio de Janeiro in 1989.
The cover story includes elaborate details about his “past”, such as a suggestion that his mother “fought a lot with her parents about this unplanned pregnancy” and a vivid description about his non-existent aunt: “A tiny woman with gray hair, kind eyes and soft hands.”
The well-constructed life story explained the Brazilian-born man’s accent, by saying that he had moved away from the country at a young age and only had glimpses of memories of infancy in Rio de Janeiro. They included the “stench of fish that hung in the port near your house” – said to be the reason “why I hate fish, contrary to most other Brazilian people who enjoy all that the sea has to offer”.
The agent also spoke about being bullied at school for his apparently pale complexion: “I don’t like to think back to these years because my fellow pupils often used to joke about my looks and my accent. Even though I looked like a German, they called me a ‘gringo’.”
Echoes of US sleeper agents
The reports published by the Dutch security services echo the story of 10 Russian spies detained by the FBI in 2010 – most of whom were “sleeper agents” who had lived in the United States for decades, posing as ordinary Americans or Canadians. One couple had teenage children who had no idea about their parents’ job or their real identities.
Russian authorities later revealed that the sleeper agents were exposed by a “mole” inside the Russian spy agency.