Did Czechoslovakian spies plan to blackmail British leader?
June 26, 2012 Leave a comment
By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
In 1975, Czechoslovakian intelligence officer Josef Frolík, who had defected to the United States, published a book titled The Frolik Defection: The Memoirs of an Intelligence Agent. Among several revelations in the book was an alleged plot by the ŠtB, Czechoslovakia’s Cold-War-era secret intelligence service, to sexually blackmail British Conservative politician Edward “Ted” Heath. According to Frolík, the ŠtB had concluded that Heath, a lifelong bachelor and Britain’s Prime Minister from 1970 to 1974, was gay. Based on this —highly questionable— belief, Jan Mrázek, an ŠtB officer working out of the Czechoslovakian embassy in London, had allegedly devised a plan in the mid-1960s, which aimed to expose Heath to homosexual blackmail. Frolík claims in his book that Mrázek developed the plot around Heath’s well-known preoccupation with classical music. Specifically, he planned to recruit Czechoslovakian classical organist Jiří Reinberger, who would be instructed to meet the British conservative politician in London and invite him to Prague for a concert. While there, the ŠtB hoped that a romantic affair would ensue, under the watchful eye of Czechoslovakian spies, who would make sure to capture the more intimate moments of the two men on camera. The audiovisual evidence would, the ŠtB believed, convince Heath to spy for Czechoslovakian intelligence. According Frolík, the plan was put to action but was eventually scrapped after MI5, Britain’s counterintelligence agency, warned Heath that a trip to Czechoslovakia would expose him to blackmail by that country’s intelligence service. When Frolík’s book came out, Heath, who had stepped down from his post as Britain’s Prime Minister and leader of the Conservative Party, dismissed the story as a fabrication, and threatened to sue the author. But was Frolík telling the truth? The BBC’s security correspondent, Gordon Corera, has produced an intriguing program for BBC Radio 4, which examines the Czechoslovakian defector’s allegations in light of new information available in state archives. Ironically, Corera had to rely primarily on Czech documents, since his Freedom of Information Act request about Frolík’s allegations was rejected by the British National Archives. Corera traveled to the Czech Republic and researched the ŠtB’s files, which apparently contain “no sign of a plot” to trap Heath, nor do they contain any files on either Heath or Reinberger —both of whom are now dead. The BBC correspondent also contacted the late organist’s family, who said that they don’t think the musician even knew the British politician. The program culminates with Corera managing to trace Mrázek, the ŠtB intelligence officer who allegedly hatched up the plot to blackmail Heath. He visits Mrázek, who is now in his eighties, retired, and lives in a quiet Czech village. The former spy tells Corera that he was indeed the ŠtB’s man in London in the 1960s; but he denies he ever knew Heath, and flatly rejects rumors that he concocted a conspiracy aimed at him. He describes Frolík’s allegations as “absolute nonsense” and says he “never even dreamed up” a plot against the leading British Tory politician. However, Corera also examines the intriguing theory that a conspiracy against Heath may have taken place, not by communist spies, but by Heath’s own opponents within the Tory Party, who used Frolík’s book to unseat him. The program can be listened to online here.