Year in review: The biggest spy-related stories of 2020, part II

Year in ReviewSince 2008, when intelNews was launched, it has been our end-of-year tradition to take a look back and highlight what we believe were the most important intelligence-related stories of the past 12 months. In anticipation of what 2021 may bring in this highly volatile field, we present you with our selection of the top spy stories of 2020. They are listed below in reverse order of significance, starting from 10 and leading up to 1. This is part two in a three-part series. Part one is available here. Part three will be published on Thursday.

05. A group of foreign mercenaries, including Americans, organized a failed coup in Venezuela. In early May, Venezuelan authorities stopped Operation GEDEÓN, an attempt by around 60 armed mercenaries and local dissidents to forcibly remove President Nicolás Maduro from office. The plan centered on infiltrating Venezuela by sea and capturing the Simón Bolívar International Airport, in an attempt to arrest and expel Maduro and other senior cabinet members. It appears, however, that the operation had been infiltrated by Venezuelan government spies and informants. At least two Americans participated in the failed operation, which was allegedly masterminded by Major General Clíver Alcalá Cordones a Colombia-based retired military officer who has since entered US custody on drug-trafficking charges. It has also been alleged that the coup was launched from Colombia with the support of Silvercorp USA, a private security group led by Jordan Goudreau, a Canadian-born former sergeant in the US Green Berets. Allegations by the Venezuelan government that the coup was also supported by the Central Intelligence Agency have not been corroborated with evidence.

06. Argentine ex-president and spy agency leaders indicted in wiretapping probe. In Argentina, a widening investigation into a domestic spying program was broadened to include Mauricio Macri, the country’s former president, and the spy chief that served under him. The alleged espionage took place between 2015 and 2019, when Macri served as the first democratically-elected non-Peronist president of Argentina. But the country’s current president Alberto Fernández, has pledged to reform the security agency, which is known as the Federal Intelligence Agency (AFI, formerly SIDE). In June, the government gave a federal court in Buenos Aires a deposition containing list of over 80 names of Argentine citizens who were allegedly spied on by the AFI without a warrant during Macri’s administration. Since that time, the court has been investigating, aside from Macri, Gustavo Arribas, who served as AFI director under Macri, as well as his deputy director in the spy agency, Silvia Majdalani, and her brother-in-law, Darío Biorci. The names of other alleged culprits remain secret, reportedly because they are still serving as undercover agents in the AFI.

07. One of the world’s most wanted men may have worked for several spy agencies. Austrian financier Jan Marsalek, dubbed by some as “the world’s most wanted man”, is connected with the sudden collapse of Wirecard AG in Germany. Wirecard (est. 1999) was a German provider of financial services, such as electronic payment transaction systems. It declared insolvency in June, after an audit revealed that nearly €2 billion ($2.3 billion) were missing from its accounts. Marsalek, who had worked as Wirecard’s chief operating officer since 2010, was last seen heading to Manila, Philippines, before vanishing into thin air. An investigative report by The Financial Times revealed that his entrance record into the Philippines had been forged, probably by an intelligence agency. Some claim that Marsalek is now under Russian protection. Other reports suggest that he may have worked “for several intelligence agencies at the same time” prior to his disappearance, including as an informant for the Austrian Office for the Protection of the Constitution and Counterterrorism (BVT). Meanwhile, Marsalek’s whereabouts remain unknown.

This is part two in a three-part series. Part one is available here. Part three will be published on Thursday.

Author: J. Fitsanakis and I. Allen | Date: 30 December 2020 | Permalink

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

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