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Former Quincy man arrested in Sweden for tampering with evidence in antisemitic arson probe in Boston area

A former Quincy man who served as a security contractor at the US Embassy in Sweden was arrested in that country Wednesday on a federal indictment filed in Boston accusing him of tampering with evidence in an antisemitic arson probe targeting his brother, who died in September 2020, authorities said.

The office of US Attorney Rachael S. Rollins confirmed the arrest of Alexander Giannakakis, 35, in a Stockholm suburb. He’s charged with tampering with documents and lying to investigators in connection with a probe into fires set at Jewish-affiliated institutions in May 2019 in Arlington, Needham, and Chelsea, Rollins’s office said in a statement.

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The investigation into the fires at local Chabad houses and a business, which greatly distressed the Jewish community in Greater Boston, had targeted Giannakakis’s younger brother, identified in court papers only as “the suspect” or “suspected arsonist.”

The younger brother died in September 2020, according to the indictment filed in Giannakakis’s case. The pleading didn’t specify how the younger brother died.

According to the indictment, the younger brother became the “prime and only suspect” in the case in February 2020, after his fingerprints were recovered on an accelerant can left at one of the crime scenes. The younger brother was hospitalized in November 2019 and remained in a coma until his death.

The younger brother’s mother in January 2020 told investigators Giannakakis had retrieved his deceased sibling’s electronics — including a laptop and cellphone — as well as sketches, writings, and mail from the brother’s bedroom and taken them back to Sweden, the indictment said.

In March 2020, the filing said, the FBI and law enforcement partners searched the younger brother’s bedroom pursuant to a warrant, seizing antisemitic writings including a paraphrased quote from Adolf Hitler as well as the sibling’s own writings disparaging Jews and calling for their extermination. Authorities also seized an unopened bottle of a flammable liquid later found to be “consistent” with trace evidence found at two of the fires, officials said.

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During that search, the indictment said, Giannakakis said “no” when asked by investigators if his brother’s property could be found anywhere else. Later, the filing said, Giannakakis met agents at a local storage facility and showed them Unit 4099, which he said his family uses.

Authorities found nothing in that unit tied to the probe, and Giannakakis said, when asked, that there were no other places his brother would keep his property. However, the filing said, Giannakakis concealed the fact that he also had access to Unit 4016 and allowed his brother to use that space.

Investigators searched the second unit two days later and seized the younger brother’s clothing and notebook that had swastikas on them, as well as a backpack containing a bottle of cyanide belonging to the sibling, per the indictment.

Giannakakis flew back to Sweden later that evening, on March 22, 2020, and hasn’t returned to the US since, court papers show. It wasn’t immediately clear when he’ll appear in US District Court in Boston to face the charges.

He faces charges of making false statements in a matter involving domestic terrorism; falsifying, concealing and covering up a material fact in a matter involving domestic terrorism by trick, scheme and device; concealing records in a federal investigation; tampering with documents and objects; and tampering with an official proceeding, according to the prosecutors’ statement.

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“Today’s arrest in Stockholm came about as a result of a close partnership with our state, local, federal and international law enforcement partners — specifically our Swedish counterparts,” Rollins said in the statement. “International cooperation is critical to our efforts to get justice and accountability for our victims here in Massachusetts.”

Rollins’s words were echoed in the statement by Joseph R. Bonavolonta, special agent in charge of the FBI Boston Division.

“On behalf of FBI Boston’s Joint Terrorism Task Force, I’d like to thank the Swedish Security Service for their assistance in helping us bring justice to the citizens who have been victimized,” Bonavolonta said. “The FBI’s strong relationship and close coordination with them was critical to the success of this investigation.”

Rabbi Avi Bukiet, whose Chabad Center for Jewish Life Arlington-Belmont was targeted in one of the arsons, said in a statement released by Arlington police that he derived “hope and optimism” from the work of the investigators who pursued the case.

“While I sincerely hoped that the arsonist himself would be apprehended and brought to justice to answer for the crimes committed, unfortunately he did not give himself that opportunity,” Bukiet said. “It is with much relief that his brother has been apprehended and hopefully be extradited to the United States and face the law for his obstruction and tampering in this matter.”

“There is much hope and optimism to be gained from the tremendous work done by law enforcement on all levels,” Bukiet said. “From the very beginning they called it for what it was: a domestic terror attack fueled by anti-Semitic motivations. While this case is far from over, myself, my family and my community can have a sense of closure from today’s news.”

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Travis Andersen can be reached at travis.andersen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.