Vienna is world’s largest espionage hub, say experts



A few months ago, a federal office under Austria’s Interior Ministry published a report on foreign intelligence activity in the country, in which it predicted that “Austria will remain an operational area for foreign intelligence agencies […], which will account for a consistently high number of intelligence agents”. An article in German newspaper Die Welt explains that not only does post-Cold-War Vienna continue to be “a spy hub between East and West”, but the Austrian capital now has “the highest density of [foreign intelligence] agents in the world”. The article quotes Austrian intelligence expert Siegfried Beer, who says that Austria is “the preferred location for agents”, not only because of its central location, but also thanks to the efficient transportation routes that connect it to both Western and Eastern Europe. Additionally, Vienna hosts the headquarters of a number of important world organizations, including the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and the Organization for Security and Co-Operation in Europe (OSCE). Add to that Austria’s limited counterintelligence capabilities and its relaxed regulation of financial institutions, which allows for considerable money-laundering activities, and you get the picture. Consequently, Vienna currently hosts approximately 17,000 diplomats, according to one observer, who also claims that “around half of them have some connection to [various] intelligence agencies”. Russia alone is said to have over 500 active intelligence operatives stationed in Vienna, most of whom are tasked with monitoring the activities of the 20,000-strong Chechen expatriate community in the Austrian capital.

About intelNews
Expert news and commentary on intelligence, espionage, spies and spying, by Dr. Joseph Fitsanakis and Ian Allen.

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