A police sniper secures a roof next to the Congress Centre on the eve of the opening day of the World Economic Forum, on January 16, 2017 in Davos.
Swiss police reportedly believe they uncovered two Russian spies who had posed as plumbers in order to bug world leaders at Davos this week.
According to the Financial Times, Swiss police picked up two men at the high-end resort in August after the pair had aroused suspicion by staying for an unusually long time.
Zürich’s Tages-Anzeiger newspaper reported that Swiss officials and police concluded that the pair were Russian spies employed by the Kremlin to record and tap into the conversations of important figures at the World Economic Forum.
Police told the Financial Times that the men claimed they had diplomatic protection, although they had not registered this with official Swiss authorities. The newspaper added that Swiss police found no indications of criminal acts.
A representative for the Russian embassy in Switzerland, Stanislav Smirnov, told CNBC via phone Tuesday that there had been no contact from Swiss authorities on the matter and that the story was “one more attempt to undermine Swiss-Russian relations.”
Smirnov added that unverified reports suggest two men with Russian passports were picked up, but not found guilty of any suspicious activities.
“The story goes, as far as I understand it, is that police wanted to check documents of men who they thought were suspicious. They were released, but still observed. The police did not see anything suspicious and the men just left,” Smirnov told CNBC.
Relations between Switzerland and Russia have been strained by previous spying allegations. In 2018, the Russian ambassador in Bern was forced to reject claims by the Swiss media that one in four Russian diplomats based in the country was a spy.
This was after the Swiss government said that two Russian spies had been caught and then expelled from the Hague in the Netherlands for their attempts to hack into a Swiss laboratory.
Visitors to this year’s WEF event include President Donald Trump, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam. Hundreds of top-ranked executives are also in attendance.
Read the full story on the FT’s website here.