Spy gadgets outlawed

Police in Moscow have taken part in a series of raids against illegal traders. But they are not after counterfeit goods; the aim is spy equipment.

New laws in Russia have made it illegal to buy and sell any specialist equipment that could be used for covert activities. Now it is just the police and security services that are allowed to use this type of equipment.

“The confidential information gathered by this equipment can be used by all types of criminals to commit all types of crimes, be it blackmail or financial schemes,” explained cyberpolice spokesperson Irina Zubareva.

New legislation has allowed the cyberpolice to get a grip on the thriving black market, where anyone can get their hands on the electronic gadgets that would make any spy swoon.

Spying gear used to be priced from $300 to just $500 each, meaning under the old rules, anyone could legally buy a full James Bond spying kit for just over $1,000.

Although the new law is aimed at stopping criminals from using spy gadgets, it has also affected crime fighting. The equipment is an important part of the private detectives' arsenal. Many are former police officers who now face the dilemma: either break the law or lose your job.

“It's really not clear why the police are allowed to use this equipment and we are not, even though have the same tasks – to protect people. Our hands are tied,” complained Oleg, a private detective from Moscow.

Certified spy gear specialist Ivan Belous says the spyware problem does not lie with those who buy or sell it, but rather those who produce it.

“Ninety per cent of this equipment is made in China and is brought to Russia illegally,” he said. “It's quite a profitable business. The gadgets are really cheap there and can be priced here three or even four times higher.”

So for those selling cheap Chinese spy gadgets, business is simply too good to stop, despite the threat of jail. Ironically, in China such equipment can only be made for export, because use inside the country could lead to the death sentence.