Communist-era spy allegations surface in Czech political wrangling

Andrej BabišBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org
Allegations that a senior Czech political figure was a government informant during the country’s communist period may disrupt the emergence of a national governing coalition. The Social Democratic Party won 20.5 percent in last October’s parliamentary election, emerging as the leading party in the Czech Republic’s fragmented political scene. The center-left party has said it is planning to form a governing coalition by reaching out to the centrist Christian Democratic Union, as well as a new center-right party calling itself ANO 2011 (Ano stands for ‘yes’ in Czech). The new party says it aims to end corruption in the country, abolish immunity from prosecution for elected parliamentarians, tackle unemployment, and improve the Czech Republic’s crumbling infrastructure. The party has also said it is willing on principle to join a wider government coalition, providing it is offered control of the country’s finance ministry. A leading contender for the ministerial position is ANO’s founder and main financial backer, Andrej Babiš. A business tycoon, who made his fortune importing and exporting fertilizers, Babiš is the Czech Republic’s second richest man, with an estimated fortune of $2 billion. His spectacular entrance into Czech politics was confirmed when ANO, which he founded in 2011, came in second in last October’s elections, receiving 18 percent of the national vote and gaining 47 seats in parliament. However, plans for a three-party coalition have been halted by allegations that Babiš may have been an informant for Czechoslovakia’s StB secret police during the 1980s. The claims first emerged in a Slovak newspaper shortly before last October’s elections, but failed to prevent ANO and Babiš from making a spectacular entry into Czech national politics. Later, however, the media allegations were substantiated by Slovakia’s Institute of National Memory, which provides public access to previously classified records of the StB and other Czechoslovak intelligence agencies during the country’s communist period. The Institute says that Babiš, who was a card-carrying member of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia, had regular contact with the StB in the 1980s. At that time he was living in North Africa working for Petrimex, a Czechoslovakian government-owned international trade company. Read more of this post

Revealed: British government minister spied for Czechoslovakia

Raymond MawbyBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The BBC has uncovered evidence that a Conservative Party minister was a longtime paid informant for Czechoslovakia’s Cold-War-era secret intelligence service. The discovery was made earlier this month by the BBC’s security correspondent, Gordon Corera, while visiting the declassified archives of the Czechoslovakian ŠtB to investigate an alleged attempt to blackmail British Conservative politician Edward Heath in the 1970s.  Corera’s discovery shows that Raymond Mawby, who was a Tory Member of Parliament from 1955 until 1983, spied for the ŠtB in return for money for nearly a decade, starting in 1961.  The BBC describes Mawby, who served as assistant Postmaster General from 1963 to 1964, and rose to the rank of junior minister in 1963, as “an unusual Tory”, since he was “a working class trade unionist” from Devon. Indeed, his extensive ŠtB file, uncovered by the BBC, shows that he was not as loyal to conservative values as one might think. Mawby was first approached by Czechoslovakian intelligence in November 1960, while attending a cocktail reception at the Czechoslovakian embassy in London. His contacts with his ŠtB handlers became more frequent during the following year when, operating under the codename Laval, he began providing them with political information from the British Houses of Commons, in exchange for regular payments of £100. By 1964, he was on a £400 monthly retainer by the ŠtB, in return for supplying the Czechoslovaks with documents from Parliament, details about the personal lives of his colleagues, and lists of Parliamentary committee members. In one instance, Mawby even supplied his foreign handlers with a hand-drawn floor plan of the office of the Prime Minister at 10 Downing Street. Read more of this post

Did Czechoslovakian spies plan to blackmail British leader?

Ted HeathBy 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? Read more of this post

News you may have missed #535

Stella Rimington

Stella Rimington

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
Last Monday’s Daily Telegraph carried a lengthy interview with Dame Stella Rimintgon, who headed MI5, Britain’s domestic intelligence agency, from 1992 to 1995. The interviewer notes that Rimington’s answers are often “so long you forget what you asked in the first place”, and when it comes to questions on MI5, she appears “practiced in the use of abstract generalities. I suspect is intentional”, she adds. No kidding. On July 10, the same newspaper revealed that, in the 1980s, an internationally renowned cancer researcher used his post at Britain’s Imperial Cancer Research Fund laboratories to steal samples and equipment on behalf of Eastern Bloc intelligence services. Jiri Bartek was working for the StB, Czechoslovakia’s secret intelligence service, says the paper. The paper notes that the revelation, which is based on declassified documents from the time, shows that Bartek (codename ‘Raki’), was probably “only one of dozens of Czech spies who used scientific positions in the West as cover for espionage”. Meanwhile, in South Africa, the country’s troubled National Intelligence Agency (NIA) has been hit an embarrassing revelation. It appears that Andre Vorster, a NIA specialist technical adviser at the agency’s Pretoria headquarters, claimed to have two doctorate degrees, both of which are fake. He also tried to swindle a leading British charity foundation by claiming to be acting on behalf of South African President Jacob Zuma. Vorster’s duties at the NIA included countersurveillance and the safeguarding of South African embassies and key installations around the world.

News you may have missed #0272

  • Outcry in Turkey over revealed coup plot. Turkish daily Taraf has revealed a military coup plot, which included detailed plans to trigger chaos in the country with the ultimate goal of a military takeover. This appears to be a new plot, not associated with the ongoing Ergenekon coup plot investigation.
  • US jails Sri Lankan LTTE operatives. A US federal court has sentenced Thiruthanikan Thanigasalam and Sahilal Sabaratnam to 25 years in prison for trying to purchase almost $1 million worth of high-powered weaponry for the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), which the US considers a terrorist organization.
  • Czechoslovakian spy lookout to be opened to public. The bell tower on St. Nicholas’ Church in Prague, where 20 years ago the Czechoslovakian secret police, the StB, kept a hidden lookout on activities outside nearby embassies, especially that of the US, is to be opened to the public later this year.

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News you may have missed #0206

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News you may have missed #0182

  • China to keep Rio Tinto boss in prison. The Chinese government has extended (again) by two months a probe into Stern Hu, the jailed boss of Anglo-Australian mining corporation Rio Tinto. Hu was arrested by the Chinese last July on espionage charges.
  • Czech spy agency objects to outing Cold War agents. Recently a Czech research center published an extensive list of names of agents of StB, the country’s main intelligence agency in the communist era. But StB’s post-communist successor, the ÚZSI, condemned the airing of the names, calling it “a massive violation of protection of sources that is part of intelligence work, which also may have a negative impact on the Czech Republic’s [current] interests”.
  • Iran reportedly creates new domestic spy agency. A radical dissident Iranian group in Paris, with known ties to Washington, claims the Iranian regime has undertaken “the largest overhaul of the [country’s] intelligence structure since 1989”.

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