Accused Russian spy worked for UK intelligence, met prime ministers and princes

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LONDON – In a semi-secret courtroom in an overheated basement, a three-judge tribunal this week heard evidence about a possible Russian spy who dug deep into into the main British intelligence agencies, gaining access to secret documents and meeting with prime ministers and British. royalty when they traveled to Afghanistan.

British security services claim the man, who can only be known as “C2” and whose name has been redacted in publicly available court documents, may have been -a spy for Russia’s military intelligence agency, known as the GRU. He arrived in the United Kingdom in 2000 as an Afghan refugee claiming asylum.

C2, who held many positions in the British government, is not facing criminal charges but is in court trying to restore his British citizenship, which was revoked in 2019. A middle-aged man with a muscular appearance with a trim beard, dressed in a leather jacket and jeans, he did not speak to the handful of reporters who attended the sessions.

C2 denied to the court that he was a Russian agent. Instead, he served Britain honorably, he said. It was a dangerous job. He said he survived several assassination attempts.

C2’s lawyers claim that the UK security services only provided evidence that C2 was a spy.

His lawyers said C2 may have attended meetings with a pair of Russian military aides named Boris and Dimitri in Kabul, as the government claimed, but these were only friendly gatherings between men who liked to attend alcohol fueled parties in Kabul. and share pictures of rocket launchers and naked women.

In any case, Britain’s confirmation that C2 may have been a Russian spy is an embarrassment to the government and its intelligence services. Either he was a spy working at the heart of British intelligence, or they have read the evidence and got the wrong mole.

The extraordinary case is being heard by the Special Immigration Appeals Commission, known as SIAC, which is accused of handling confidential evidence, or what it calls “sealed material.”

Last year, SIAC heard an appeal from British teenager Shamima Begum, a “Jihadi bride” who went to Syria to marry an Islamic State fighter. After she was found in a refugee camp in Syria, British Home Secretary Sajid Javid stripped her of her British citizenship. SIAC dismissed her claim.

In these cases, the judges have access to closed materials that were denied not only to the public but even lawyers for C2.

An insight into the life and times of C2 came from the defense evidence heard in the “open” parts of the trial and court papers, from sources such as “FL” who worked for the gangs but were not particularly forthcoming.

In C2’s case, the government’s security services assessed that he might be a Russian spy and posed a future threat to national security – so they suspended his British citizenship. However, C2 got out of Afghanistan on one of the last British evacuations before Kabul fell to the Taliban.

C2 is in court to win back his British citizenship and avoid possible deportation to Afghanistan or Russia.

C2 was born and raised in Afghanistan, where his father was a career army officer. The Times of London, which has been following the case closely, reported earlier this week that on the day of his testimony, C2 told the court that MI5, the country’s domestic and security agency RA, accused of being groomed by the Russians from the age of 5. .

In the 1990s, C2 said, he traveled to Moscow, entering Russia from Afghanistan with the help of a smuggler. He lived in Moscow for six years, attended university there and married a Russian.

In 2000, with the help of another smuggler, he claimed to have been given a fake Russian passport and boarded a flight to a Caribbean holiday, with a stopover in London. At Heathrow Airport, he asked for asylum, saying he was fleeing the Taliban. He admitted that he lied to the authorities.

Despite this, C2 seems to have succeeded in London. He worked as a translator, attended Brunel University and obtained an MA in information and security studies.

While an alleged Russian asset, C2 rose through the ranks of British intelligence, working for the Central Government Communications Office, the country’s intelligence, security and cyber agency, in London.

According to the government summary, C2 returned to Afghanistan, employed by the UK Foreign Office, as a cultural affairs adviser in a reconstruction team in Helmand, Afghanistan.

In that role he met Prince Charles, who was now king, and Prince William, who was prime minister to David Cameron and Gordon Brown. He was featured in a press release from the UK Department of Defense praising his work.

Court papers also showed that C2 spent time working at NATO in Kabul. He went on to become an official in Afghanistan’s Ministry of Commerce. Later he was involved in oil deals.

His lawyer, Robert Palmer, told the judges that the Russians were Afghanistan’s main trading partners; that his client spoke several languages, including Russian. He suggested that C2 was a player in Kabul, who worked hard in the shadow world of Kabul during the war, at the embassy parties and military bases, knew bribes and deal-making – and that he may have been under suspected that his Russian friends were GRU handlers “but he didn’t know for sure.”

“Everybody in Afghanistan was fishing for information,” Palmer said.

In his closing arguments, Palmer said that, in fact, the fishing trips included one with MI5, who subjected C2 to an hour-long “alleged lie detector test” and then he told him that he had failed him. Perhaps oddly, one of the questions asked by C2’s interrogators was whether he had ever met Donald Trump.

The lead judge in the case, Justice Robert Jay, told the courtroom that the tribunal was able to find C2 credible but that he could still be considered a threat to national security.

Rory Dunlop, the lawyer who represented the government’s Home Secretary, harshly said that C2 had given “false and unbelievable answers” to the court. He said, “he has told several lies.”

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