Denmark arrests three Iranian separatists for spying for Saudi Arabia

Finn Borch AndersenAuthorities in Denmark have announced the arrests of three Iranian Arab separatists, who are charged with carrying out espionage on behalf of the intelligence services of Saudi Arabia. The arrests were announced on Monday by the Danish Security and Intelligence Service, known as PET.

According to the PET, the three Iranians are members of a group calling itself the Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Ahvaz (ASMLA). Known also as Al-Ahwaziya, the group was established in 1980. It calls for a separate state for ethnic Arabs who live the oil-rich province of Khuzestan, in Iran’s southwest.

PET director Finn Borch Andersen told reporters on Monday that the three Iranians were recruited in 2012 by the General Intelligence Presidency (GIP), Saudi Arabia’s primary intelligence agency. They allegedly spied on pro-Iranian groups and individuals in Denmark and other countries northern Europe on behalf of the GID. They reported regularly to their handler, who was an undercover intelligence officer at the Saudi embassy in Copenhagen, according to the PET.

In October 2018, one of the three Iranian men was targeted for assassination by Iranian intelligence, but Danish authorities managed to prevent it with an elaborate security operation. A Norwegian man of Iranian background was arrested during the operation and remains in detention in Denmark. Throughout that time, the PET continued to monitor the three Iranian separatists, and proceeded to arrest them this week.

Late on Monday, the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs summoned the Saudi ambassador to Copenhagen in order to file an official complaint about Saudi espionage activities on Danish soil. According to the Danish media, the ambassador of Denmark to Saudi Arabia contacted the oil kingdom’s government to protest about the incident.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 05 February 2020 | Permalink

Denmark arrests 22 in counter-terrorism raids, allegedly with help from Israel

Danish policeLast Thursday Danish authorities arrested 22 terrorism suspects in early morning raids across the country. Reports from Israel suggest that the raids were carried out following a tip from Israeli intelligence. The 22 suspects include men and women. Danish police said they were involved in the final stages of a plot to carry out attacks “in Denmark or abroad”, but have provided no specific information, except to say that the attacks were “thwarted” while they were well underway.

Danish media reported that the early-morning raids by police and intelligence personnel resulted in the arrest of 22 individuals. These have not yet been named in accordance with Denmark’s strict privacy laws. Among them are four men between 21 and 25 years of age, and a 38-year-old woman. All were remanded in a court in Copenhagen on Thursday and Friday of last week. A sixth individual, aged 28, was remanded to custody separately from the other five. His hearing was reportedly held in secret, and no information other than his age and gender has been made public.

The six suspects are accused of trying to build bombs using triacetone triperoxide (TATP) explosive. They are also accused of trying to purchase guns, ammunition and sound suppressors, commonly known as silencers. Danish police said the suspects planned to use the explosives and guns “in connection with one or more terrorist attacks inside Denmark or abroad”. However, no further information has been provided about the targets of the alleged terrorist plot.

Meanwhile on Saturday, Israel’s Channel 12 television claimed that the Danish counter-terrorism raids were sparked by information provided to Danish authorities by the Mossad, Israel’s primary external intelligence agency. The channel, a popular privately owned television station, did not provide evidence of the claim, or any specific information about the alleged intelligence tip.

Danish police said on Monday that 16 of those arrested last week have been released, but remain suspects in the investigation. The remaining six suspects all pleaded not guilty to charges of terrorism on Saturday. They will remain in prison on pre-trial custody while the authorities continue to investigate the alleged terrorist plot.

Author: Ian Allen | Date: 17 December 2019 | Permalink

Executive of Danish bank implicated in massive money laundering found dead

Danske BankThe former chief executive of Danske Bank’s subsidiary in Estonia, which is implicated in a massive money laundering scheme, has been found dead in an apparent suicide in Tallinn. Aivar Rehe, 56, headed the Estonian subsidiary of the Copenhagen-based Danske Bank, one of Northern Europe’s largest retail banks, which was founded in 1871. He belonged to a group of dynamic young entrepreneurs who spearheaded the privatization of the Estonian economy in the post-Soviet era.

But the reputation of the Estonian banking sector was tarnished last year, when a criminal investigation was launched into an alleged money laundering scandal. The investigation focused on customers from Russia and other Eastern European countries who allegedly used Danske Bank’s subsidiary in Estonia to launder billions of dollars in illicit funds. The probe prompted Danske Bank to pull out of the Baltic countries. Meanwhile, the probe extended to Sweden, Germany and the United States. Deutsche Bank, one of the world’s largest financial institutions, is currently being investigated for allegedly helping facilitate Danske Bank’s customers launder money by converting it into United States dollars. The criminal probe has damaged the previously spotless reputation of the Scandinavian banking sector and has made Central European banks hesitant to do business in the Baltics. Some financial observers have even warned that the Danske Bank scandal could drag the Baltic economies into a prolonged recession.

Rehe was not involved in the money laundering scandal. However, much of the money laundering took place between 2007 and 2015, when he was in charge of the Estonian subsidiary of Danske Bank. Under his leadership the bank’s operations were allegedly marred by “deficiencies in controls and governance”, which allowed for criminal activity to occur unnoticed, according to an internal Danske Bank investigation into the money laundering affair. Rehe had been missing from his home since Monday, having apparently left without taking his wallet and cellphone. His body was discovered on Wednesday in the garden of his home in the Estonian capital. Police have ruled his death an apparent suicide and believe that no foul play was involved.

Author: Ian Allen | Date: 26 September 2019 | Permalink

Denmark recalls its envoy from Tehran, accuses Iran of assassination plot

Finn Borch AndersenThe Danish government has recalled its ambassador from Iran and has accused the intelligence services of the Islamic Republic of plotting an assassination operation on Danish soil. Danish government officials also said that Copenhagen would seek to impose further economic and diplomatic sanctions on Tehran, in coordination with the European Union. The accusations against Iran were leveled during an emergency news conference in the Danish capital on Tuesday, led by Anders Samuelsen, Denmark’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, and Finn Borch Andersen (pictured), Director of the Danish Security and Intelligence Service, known as PET.

The two men said that “an Iranian intelligence agency” had planned “an attack on Danish soil”, which  Defense Minister Samuelsen condemned as “completely unacceptable”. PET Director Andersen said that a Norwegian national of Iranian background had been arrested in Sweden on October 21, and was now in custody awaiting extradition to Denmark. The arrestee is an employee of Iranian intelligence, said Andersen, and had been observed conducting surveillance against a Danish-based leading member of an Iranian separatist group. The alleged target is a member of the Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Ahvaz (ASMLA), a hardline separatist group campaigning for a separate homeland for Iran’s Arab minority. Approximately 2 percent of Iranians (around 1.5 million people) belong to the country’s ethnic Arab population. Most of them are concentrated in Khuzestan, a region in Iran’s oil-rich southwest, which borders neighboring Iraq. Some of these ethnic Arabs seek autonomy from Tehran, which they see as an alien regime. ASMLA represents the militant wing of Iran’s separatist Arab community and has a history of staging terrorist attacks inside Iran. Last September, the group claimed it was behind an armed attack on a military parade in the city of Ahvaz —a major urban center in Iran’s Arab-speaking region— which killed 24 people, including some women and children. Later, however, a representative of the group retracted the claim.

On Tuesday, several Iranian officials issued strong denials of the Danish government’s allegations. Speaking in Tehran, Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Qassemi dismissed Denmark’s claims as “spiteful”. He added that the timing of reports linking Iran to assassination operations on European soil were suspect and described them as “a plot by [Iran’s] enemies to damage Tehran’s growing relations with European countries”. Earlier this month, France seized the financial assets of individuals whom it described as Iranian spies, after blaming Tehran for a foiled bomb attack in Paris. The move followed the arrest of six people in France, Germany and Belgium, who allegedly planned to bomb the annual conference of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) last June. The NCRI is led by Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK), a militant group with roots in radical Islam and Marxism, which Iran sees as a terrorist organization.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 31 October 2018 | Permalink

Denmark arrests two for attempting to procure drones for ISIS

ISIS UAV droneDanish Police have announced the arrest of two men who attempted to procure unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) —commonly known as drones— on behalf of the Islamic State in Syria. In a press statement issued on Wednesday, Denmark’s State Police said it worked closely with the Danish Security and Intelligence Service (PET) to arrest the two men, as part of “a long-term investigation” that continues to take place in the Greater Copenhagen area.

According to the press statement, the two men are members of Danish-based Islamist groups and were known to police prior to their arrest this week. They are also believed to be part of a larger network of Islamist activists in the Scandinavian country who support the Islamic State —also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). A police spokesman said on Wednesday that the case involves the “procurement and facilitation” of unmanned aerial vehicle components, “including drones, from Denmark to the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq”. The components were procured with the purpose of being used in reconnaissance and combat operations abroad by the militant group, he added.

This is the second time that Danish authorities have arrested individuals for attempting to procure drones and drone equipment for the Islamic State. A year ago, a 28-year-old man was charged with shipping disassembled drone equipment and infrared cameras to an address in Turkey. The shipped material was collected up by a Turkish couple who were Islamic State members and were arrested following an international police operation. The Islamic State has been using drones [.pdf] since October of 2016, when it deployed a bomb-laden UAV to kill two Kurdish soldiers. In January of last year, the militant group aired propaganda footage showing several cases of dropping bombs on adversary troops and civilians using specially modified drones.

The two men arrested this week are expected to appear in court on Thursday. It is believed that state prosecutors will request a closed-door hearing, since the investigation against the network of ISIS supporters in Denmark is ongoing.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 27 September 2018 | Permalink

Danish court halts sales of book written by former spy boss (updated)

Jakob Scharf's "Ten Years With the PET"

Jakob Scharf’s “Ten Years With the PET”

A court in Denmark has issued an injunction that prevents retail outlets from selling a book written by the former director of the country’s domestic intelligence agency. Titled Seven Years with the PET, the book is based on a series of interviews with Jakob Scharf, who directed Denmark’s Police Intelligence Service (PET) from 2007 to 2013. The book was scheduled for general release in bookstores across the country on October 17 by its publisher, People’s Press. By the end of the first week of October, the Copenhagen-based publisher had already supplied 5,000 copies of the book to 40 bookstores across Denmark, and several copies had already found their way into the hands of readers.

But last Friday night, the PET filed a request for an injunction to be placed on retail sales of the book, arguing that its pages might contain information pertaining to state secrets. The injunction was granted by a court in Copenhagen overnight, and communicated in the early hours of Saturday morning to the publisher, two online retailers and over 40 bookstores. The PET is listed as the requester of the injunction, and a rarely used ‘state secrets’ clause is given as justification for the urgent measure. On Saturday, the current director of the PET, Finn Borch Andersen, spoke to Denmark’s TV2 channel about the injunction. He told the television station that his agency filed the injunction after commercials appeared on television, advertising the book as “an exposure of PET operations”. He added that PET personnel “are currently reading” the book and that the agency will ask for the injunction to be lifted if no sensitive information is found.

But on Monday, Danish newspaper Politiken said it would defy the court injunction and publish excerpts of Scharf’s book. Speaking on the same day, the paper’s editor-in-chief, Christian Jensen, dismissed the ban, which he said “directly attacks the fundamental liberties on which our open society and free press depends”. Politiken had been scheduled to serialize Scharf’s book and was among the recipients of the court injunction.

The PET made headlines in 2012, after it was revealed that one of its double agents, Morten Storm, successfully infiltrated al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). The revelation caused controversy in Denmark because of Storm’s admission that he broke domestic and international law in the course of his activities, and led to a pledge by the country’s justice minister to impose more governmental control over the PET. Scharf, who led the agency from 2007 to 2013, was head of the organization after Denmark became targeted by Islamist extremists, following the publication in 2005 of cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad. The latter is considered sacrilegious by literalist Muslims, including organizations that espouse militant versions of Islam.

Update Oct. 11, 2016, 12:35 GMT: It appears that Politiken proceeded to publish nearly the entire book on Sunday and Monday. The PET has just announced that it will withdraw its injunction request against the publication of the book, because it cannot be practically enforced at this point.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 11 October 2016 | Permalink

CIA airplane sent to capture Edward Snowden in 2013, documents show

Edward SnowdenDocuments acquired through Denmark’s freedom of information act appear to show that the United States deployed an airplane, which had previously been used to rendition terrorism detainees, in an attempt to capture the American defector Edward Snowden. Snowden, a computer expert for the United States Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency, is currently living in Russia, where he defected in June 2013, after initially fleeing to Hong Kong with millions of stolen US government documents in his possession. A few weeks ago, Danish news website Denfri.dk published a set of documents that confirm the deployment over Danish airspace of an American airplane in June 2013. The plane had previously been used by the CIA to carry out extraordinary renditions of terrorism detainees during the Administration of US President George W. Bush.

The documents, which were acquired by Denfri.dk after it filed a lawsuit under Denmark’s Access to Public Administration Files Act, are heavily redacted. But they do show the deployment of the Gulfstream V aircraft with registration number N977GA, which landed at an airport in Danish capital Copenhagen, after flying over the British Isles. The flight occurred at the same time that Snowden was trying to acquire political asylum in Russia, according to Denfri. The website said that the documents it received from the Danish government included a “heavily redacted” email exchange between high-level officials in the country’s Justice and Foreign Affairs Ministries, as well police and military personnel. Among them was Anders Herping Nielsen, a Danish government official specializing in the extradition of detainees who are wanted for crimes abroad.

Denfri said it contacted the Danish government to ask why the documents had been so heavily redacted before being released. It was allegedly told by the Ministry of Justice that the redacting occurred in order to avoid complications in Danish-American relations. “Denmark’s relationship with the US would be damaged if the information [contained in the redacted portion of the documents] becomes public knowledge”, said an email from the Ministry.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 08 February 2016 | Permalink