On March 30, the Colombian Army and the Attorney General’s Office captured in the town of Suba, Bogotá, Russian citizen Sergei Vagin and six Colombians, alleged members of a criminal network that moved millions of dollars to finance operations against the Public Force and organize protests in the country since 2019, Colombian magazine Semana reported.
Vagin, also known as Servac, transferred money from Russia to destabilize and disrupt order in different Colombian cities, Caracol Radio reported.
According to Colombian newspaper El Tiempo, Vagin and his criminal group recruited Colombians and Venezuelans to open accounts in their name and move large sums of money among them, as well as infiltrate protests. Documents from the Attorney General’s Office also point to an alleged link between the Russian and the National Liberation Army (ELN).
Vagin is accused of asset transfer, criminal conspiracy, illicit use of telecommunications networks, and abusive access to computer systems, among other crimes, Semana reported.
“We are uncovering that this money laundering operation sought to affect the security of the state and citizens,” General (ret.) Juan Carlos Buitrago, former chief of Operations of the Colombian Police Intelligence Directorate, told channel NTN24 on March 30. “It’s a large money laundering operation in the amount of $130 million,” he said.
To remain undetected, Vagin was steadily flowing small amounts from Russia — between $2,000 and $4,000. In addition, he sent detailed reports to various contacts in Moscow about activities in Colombia, especially during the social protests, Semana reported. He also allegedly tried to bribe a Colombian Army officer to obtain “top secret reports,” reported El Colombiano.
The money is believed to have ended up in the coffers of the criminal group Primera Línea, reported Argentine news site Infobae. This group has links to dissidents of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC, in Spanish) and the ELN, and uses terrorism to cause systematic and collateral damage, Semana said.
The Colombian government believes that an operation that seeks to destabilize democracy and public order in the country is behind the money transfers from Russia.
Varying intelligence agencies followed Servac, and even tapped his cell phone, the daily said. In some conversations, which U.S. experts translated, he is heard coordinating money transfers from Moscow to Colombia through Sherbank — Russia’s largest bank — and looking for powerful friends.
On March 30, the Russian Embassy in Colombia denied the alleged Russian interference in Colombia’s internal affairs through Servac. “Vagin is a simple analyst who provides his services to a sports betting company. He has no links whatsoever with the Russian government or this Embassy [in Bogotá].”
According to El Tiempo, there are two active groups of Russian nationals operating in Bogotá and Medellín: one led by Servin and the other by a woman who flew from Medellín to Panama and then to Moscow in December 2021.
U.S. security think tank Center for a Free and Secure Society’s investigative video series Border Wars, released in early 2022, shows the presence of Russian soldiers on the Colombian-Venezuelan border, allegedly spying on Colombia from Venezuela.
In December 2020, the Colombian government expelled Aleksandr Paristov and Aleksandr Nicolayevich, two Russian diplomats who had been obtaining confidential information from public and private companies, infrastructure and, above all, from the energy sector, Colombian newspaper El País reported.
The National Intelligence Directorate’s alarms went off in 2017, and after a long operation, the agency determined that those involved carried out acts of espionage, El País said. The Kremlin protested the “unfounded decision of the Colombian party to expel the two diplomats.”
Concerning the arrest of Vagin, the Russian Embassy said that it expects the “competent bodies to show impartiality and adherence to the Law with regard to this citizen of the Russian Federation.”