Sons of exposed Russian deep-cover spies want their Canadian citizenship back

FoleyThe sons of a Russian couple, who fraudulently acquired Canadian citizenship before being arrested for espionage in the United States, are seeking to reinstate their Canadian citizenship, which was annulled when their parents were found to be Russian spies. Tim and Alex Vavilov are the sons of Donald Heathfield and Tracey Foley, a married couple arrested in 2010 under Operation GHOST STORIES —a counterintelligence program run by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Following their arrest, their sons, who allegedly grew up thinking their parents were Canadian, were told that their parents were in fact Russian citizens and that their real names were Andrei Bezrukov and Elena Vavilova. Their English-sounding names and Canadian passports had been forged in the late 1980s by the KGB, the Soviet Union’s primary external intelligence agency.

The two boys were at the family’s home in suburban Cambridge, MA, on Sunday, June 27, 2010, when FBI agents conducted coordinated raids across New England, arresting their parents and eight more Russian ‘illegals’. The term is used to signify Russian non-official-cover operatives, namely intelligence officers who operate abroad without diplomatic cover and typically without connection to the country they spy for. It is now believed that Bezrukov and Vavilova were recruited as a couple in the 1980s by the KGB’s Department S, which operated the agency’s ‘illegals’ program.

But the two brothers, who were born in Canada, are currently involved in a prolonged legal battle to have their Canadian citizenship reinstated. The latter was rescinded when it became clear that their parents’ Canadian passports were fraudulent. According to the Canadian Citizenship Act, children born in Canada to “employees of a foreign government” are not entitled to Canadian nationality. But the brothers argue that they were 20 and 16 when their parents were arrested and were unaware of their double identities. It follows, they told Canada’s newsmagazine Maclean’s in August, that they cannot be punished for their parents’ crimes.

This past June, Canada’s Federal Court of Appeal overturned the decision of a lower court and ordered the government to reinstate Alex Vavilov’s Canadian citizenship. Now the government has until September 20 to decide whether to appeal the Federal Court of Appeal’s decision to the Supreme Court. If it does not, or if it upholds the decision of the Federal Court of Appeal, it is thought that Alex’s brother, Tim, will also have his Canadian citizenship reinstated.

But the case may be further-complicated by allegations made by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) that Tim was aware of his parents’ espionage activities when they were arrested by the FBI. The CSIS claims that the two Russian spies had groomed Tim to enter the intelligence profession, and that the then-20-year-old had given an oath of allegiance to the SVR —the KGB’s post-Cold-War successor agency. But Tim Vavilov denies he was groomed or “sworn-in” by the Russians, and argues that he has never been presented with evidence of this allegation, even though his parents’ home in Massachusetts was bugged by the FBI for nearly a decade.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 15 September 2017 | Permalink

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6 Responses to Sons of exposed Russian deep-cover spies want their Canadian citizenship back

  1. Juan F. says:

    There should be a note alerting “spoiler alert” to anyone who hasn’t watched The Americans TV series

  2. jones says:

    Given target’s residence was under audio-surveillance for nearly a decade, if no admissible evidence was collected to substantiate Tim was indeed being groomed by his parents to become an “illegal” does not bold well for counterintelligence team. However, CSIS would not make allegation(s) without some supportive evidence.

    The case also seems to have similar parallels to DACA.

    Interesting case to follow

  3. Seth Chanowitz says:

    The SVR and FSB are know to be very nepotistic. If your parents were in the organization, then it is a highly likelihood/expectation that your child would be expected to join the organization. The fact that Canada allows an intelligence to exploit its citizenship laws shows a lack of sophistication.

  4. Pete says:

    The CSIS, FBI and legal areas of their respective governments should not have to pay lawyers and civil servants $millions to fight a case involving the kids of hostile foreign agents.

    Also the CSIS and FBI should not have to publicly comb through their confidential sources and methods (eg. 10,000s of audio surveillance tapes and transcripts) that may or may not reflect how much the kids knew about their parents.

  5. jon spencer says:

    The Canadian citizenship probably rests on how the kids skate.

  6. Nohchi says:

    @Seth Chanowitz:
    It might show the lack of sophistication but it surely shows abundance of democracy and due process of law. Unlike the place where SVR and FSB come from…

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