Russian banker seeks NY spy case dismissal, says his work for a state-owned bank was proper

NEW YORK, N.Y. – A Russian citizen who worked in Manhattan as a banker asked a federal judge Thursday to toss out charges that he participated in a Cold War-style Russian spy ring.

Lawyers for Evgeny Buryakov filed papers in Manhattan federal court saying prosecutors have turned over an avalanche of video and audio recordings collected over a 2 1/2-year period trying to build a case that should be disallowed.

The lawyers said the United States has never before prosecuted an individual working openly for a foreign state-owned agency on charges that he failed to notify the attorney general of his status as an agent of a foreign government.

They said U.S. laws make clear that someone like Buryakov, who is “officially sponsored” by a foreign government, does not need to separately register.

“There are potentially thousands of individuals in the United States like Mr. Buryakov: persons openly working in representative capacities for foreign government agencies and instrumentalities, but in non-consular, non-diplomatic posts,” the lawyers wrote. “The government could pick and choose whom to arrest and prosecute, based on arbitrary criteria such as nationality or country of origin.”

A spokeswoman for prosecutors declined to comment.

The government has given defence lawyers 5,000 hours of video and 1,500 hours of audio, the lawyers said.

Prosecutors have said that from 2012 through January, Buryakov teamed up with low-level diplomats to gather sensitive economic intelligence on potential U.S. sanctions against Russian banks and on efforts in the United States to develop alternative energy resources.

Buryakov pleaded not guilty after his January arrest to charges that he conspired to spy and acted as a spy. He has remained incarcerated.

Before the case was announced, Buryakov lived in the Bronx with his Russian wife and two children and worked at the Manhattan branch of a Russian bank. Buryakov arrived in the United States in 2010 and secured a work visa.