Explosive claims have emerged from the Ukraine that a former model who accused one of the most powerful men on Wall Street of multiple sexual assaults, is a Russian spy.
The intelligence arm of Ukraine’s Ministry of Defence published a list of what it said are FSB employees on its own website, and later shared it on Twitter. They include names, addresses and even passport numbers. As recent investigations by the website Bellingcat show, names and passports are frequently altered to suit the legends of the spies.
According to the country’s Intelligence Directorate, Guzel Ganieva is one of 620 FSB employees whose names appear in the list of Putin-controlled intelligence assets operating around the world. Ganieva’s alleged entry has her name slightly mis-spelled, and her date of birth is different. The Ukrainian intelligence service is, however, adamant she and the spy on the list are the same person.
The big question is whether the list is legit.
Aric Toler, a researcher at investigative reporting group Bellingcat, said some of the names seem to come from existing leaks on FSB officers, but other entries on the list appear to be original.
“Going through some of these with spot-checks, and a lot of them are direct copy-pastes from different leaked databases,” he added. “So, it’s possible much of the information is nothing new in the spy world. Still, it could paint a bigger target on the backs of many FSB officers.”
Ganieva, 40, is currently suing Leon Black, former CEO at Apollo Global Management, for defamation and sexual violence in a New York Court.
Little is known about her early life other than that she came to live in America when she was in her earlier twenties, as a single mother. She worked for elite model management and with Black’s assistance, unsuccessfully tried to get jobs in banking and finance, also studying at undergraduate and master’s levels at an Ivy League university.
Her name is no.139 on the spy list, released in March by the Ukrainians who obtained the names via a huge data leak from the Federal Security Services’ (FSB) headquarters in Lubyanka Square, Moscow.
According to articles published in a number of Ukrainian and Estonian media outlets, based on a follow-up intelligence briefing with Ukraine officials earlier this month, there are remarkable parallels between spy no.139 and the Guzel Ganieva we have come to know through her high-profile litigation against Leon Black.
The Ukrainians stated that the spy they have named regularly travels between London, New York, and Moscow – matching the travel schedule of Ganieva the former model.
They also state that she was working closely with another Russian spy, Elena Branson, who fled back to Russia in 2020. It was Branson, they said, who introduced Ganieva to Black after he picked her out of a crowd at an International Women’s Day Event in 2008. Branson they said had packed the event with female operatives in the hope of ensnaring Wall Street executives for kompromat.
The Ukrainian intelligence service alleges that Ganieva was working with Branson and knew of the other’s secret life as an influential asset reporting directly to Putin.
Inquiries by National Security News (NSN) also show that Ganieva lives a lifestyle considerably beyond her means, which enables her to continue to rub shoulders with US socialites. Black has testified to the fact that he stopped offering her financial support in 2015, and she has not modelled in a decade.
Yet Ganieva continues to reside in an apartment in Columbus Circle, New York, which she does not own, where similar homes in the same luxury Time Warner residence are let at $34,950 per month.
A maisonette in Knightsbridge, London, where she stayed in 2018 was owned by an offshore trust, where rentals of similarly sized properties in the same street can be as high as £15,000 a week.
She has also spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on undergraduate and master’s degrees at Ivy League Universities – among them Columbia, where the notorious Russian spy Cindy Murphy targeted students joining the CIA.
Oleksandr Merezhko, chair of the Ukraine Foreign Affairs Committee, told NSN that while he was not personally familiar with any of the names on the list, he had no reason to doubt its authenticity.
“The list has been produced by our intelligence service after presumably some thorough research,” he said. “We are known for our thoroughness so I would be inclined to suggest that anyone reading it takes it very seriously.”
Ganieva, 40, made worldwide headlines last year when she made multiple allegations against Black, ranging from claiming he had trafficked her to Jeffrey Epstein, to describing how he raped her in a New York apartment, and forced her to sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA).
Black categorically denies the claims but still ended up stepping down early as the CEO of Apollo, the private equity firm he co-founded.
The 70-year-old described having a consensual relationship with the mother of one, which came to an end in 2015, when he claims she began extorting him. She has denied ever being in a relationship with him, saying she was coerced from the beginning.
US media were able to report the row after Ganieva submitted a damages claim to a court in Manhattan, meaning that regardless of how unsubstantiated the allegations were, journalists could publish them as they were protected by qualified privilege
The hedge fund boss was met with derision when he countered her claims by saying she had unseen forces bankrolling her and that this was part of a plot to unseat him from Apollo.
A judge eventually dismissed Black’s complaint, a decision that he is now appealing.
Given that there is no noticeable motive for the Ukrainians to have cited Ganieva in this way – Apollo and Black have no business or personal interest in the country – the claims against her cannot be dismissed as an ex-lover venting.
They also add an intriguing dimension to the emerging evidence that Russia used the time when western nations were forging better trade links with Putin and his cohorts, to embed agents even deeper into the US and Europe.
Although Richard Moore the Chief of MI-6 recently said at the Aspen Security Forum that 400 Russian spies operating under diplomatic cover have been expelled across Europe, it seems that it is the Russia spies operating under non-diplomatic cover or as illegals that pose the real danger for the future.
Black is an acknowledged lion of Wall Street who has been brought down and suffered lasting reputational harm in the process. But what the saga has also done is damage how Wall Street is seen as well, adding to its reputation of being a misogynistic lads’ club, which actively discriminates against women.
From a Russian perspective, damaging the US economically via a poison pen as opposed to a poison dart, and in such a way that confidence is eroded in the stock exchange itself, would exceed even the wildest dreams of its very best spymasters.
NSN approached Ganieva for her comments via WhatsApp. While our messages appeared to be seen, there was no response from her. We also approached Black for a comment via his publicist, but were told he had nothing to say on the matter.
- For a more detailed look at the claims against Ganieva please click on Investigations: