McBride told the Sunday Times that in late 2016, 16 men were hired on the pretext of guarding offices of the Hawks, but were sent for specialist training to Russia. Weapons training might also have been conducted in China, he said.
The Russian embassy in SA confirmed that its government offers "professional development and advanced training" to the South African Police Service. But embassy spokesperson Alexander Kulyaev denied this was "tactical warfare" training.
"The training courses are focused on methods of police investigative work. No 'tactical warfare', just man management, ballistic examination and assessment, fingerprint analysis, counterterrorism negotiations, profiling, international interaction on tackling economic crime, information and communication security, peacekeeping operations, training for women, et cetera," said Kulyaev.
It is not clear whether this is the programme the Hawks "security guards" went on.
McBride said he was trying to track the 16 people in the police system as they had effectively become "ghosts".