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Russian tech expert named in report says no one asked him about hacking accusations

Kevin G. Hall and Tim Johnson, McClatchy Washington Bureau on

Published in News & Features

WASHINGTON -- A Russian venture capitalist and tech expert whose name and company are mentioned in the now-notorious document alleging connections between the Donald Trump campaign and Russian hackers says no intelligence officers have ever contacted him about the accusations, which he says are false.

A report compiled by a former Western intelligence official as opposition research against Trump was made public Tuesday when BuzzFeed posted its 35 pages. The document included unsubstantiated claims of collusion between the Trump campaign team and the Kremlin.

It also alleged that global tech firm XBT Holding, with operations in Dallas, was instrumental in the hack of leaked Democratic Party emails that embarrassed Hillary Clinton and fellow Democrats.

XBT, owner of Dallas-based enterprise-hosting company Webzilla, is run by a successful Russian tech startup expert, Aleksej Gubarev. In a phone interview from Cyprus, where he said he'd lived since 2002, Gubarev said he was surprised to see his name in the report.

"I don't know why I was there," Gubarev said, adding that perhaps a competitor sought to discredit him. "I still don't understand the true reason for this report."

The salacious innuendoes in the periodic reports about Trump's personal life dominated social media headlines. The mention of Webzilla and Gubarev was among the more specific allegations: that XBT and affiliates "had been using botnets and porn traffic to transmit viruses, plant bugs, steal data and conduct 'altering operations' against the Democratic Party leadership."

Gubarev said he operated 75,000 servers across the globe and got real-time information if there had been hacking or illicit activity tied to his businesses. There is no evidence of that, he said, adding that no one has contacted him.

"I have a physical office in Dallas. Nobody contacted me," said Gubarev, adding that 40 percent of his business is handled over the servers it runs in Dallas and the United States accounts for about 27 percent of his global business.

President-elect Trump confirmed Wednesday at a news conference that he had seen the 35-page report, and he blasted it as "fake news" and an "absolute disgrace."

McClatchy has reported that Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., gave the bulk of the report to FBI Director James Comey on Dec. 9. The final pages of the report are dated Dec. 11. McClatchy had the report earlier but couldn't verify any of its allegations.

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