Claims that a Russian technology park is masterminding industrial espionage against foreign companies have been described as “curious” by former junior minister Conor Lenihan – who promoted the park internationally in his role as Minister for Science, Technology and Innovation.
Moscow-based Skolkovo Foundation hired the former Fianna Fail TD in 2011 to market a state-funded science park that Vladimir Putin set up to rival California’s Silicon Valley.
As vice-president of Skolkovo Foundation, Lenihan played a key role in attracting many of the world’s leading technology firms including Intel, Cisco, Nokia and Boeing to the 1,000-acre high-tech business park, in addition to securing €1.2bn in R&D investment mainly from US firms.
Last week the technology park was accused in the US of being a ‘Trojan Horse’ run by Russia’s spy agencies.
When contacted, Lenihan said US claims over alleged spying were “curious”.
“We had a strong working relationship at the time with the US embassy in Moscow and the US State Department who, as a matter of policy, was actively supporting our initiative, and actively assisting us in our efforts to bring large US investment to Skolkovo,” he said.
Lenihan was responding to a report published by a Florida-based watchdog, Government Accountability Institute, alleging that the Skolkovo project is a corporate spying operation run by the Russian military. He left the company in 2014.
“The foundation may be a means for the Russian government to access our nation’s sensitive or classified research development facilities and dual-use technologies with military and commercial application,” the report states. Basing its allegations on FBI, US military and cybersecurity experts’ findings, it adds: “The true motives of the Russian partners, who are often funded by their government, is to gain access to classified, sensitive, and emerging technology from the companies.”
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