Canada’s security service recently arrested a deep-cover Russian intelligence officer posing as a Canadian citizen in what officials say is a rare capture of an “illegal” spy.
Court papers identified the man as Paul William Hampel and said he was a member of Russia’s foreign intelligence service, or SVR, and an “illegal” spy operating without the protection of diplomatic cover.
A Canadian federal court report made public earlier this week stated that the Canadian Security and Intelligence Services thinks Mr. Hampel “is a danger to the security of Canada” and was thus “inadmissible” to the country.
Mr. Hampel was arrested at Montreal’s Pierre Elliot Trudeau Airport on Nov. 14 and found to be carrying three passports that authorities said were obtained fraudulently using a Canadian birth certificate.
He also was found carrying about $6,876 worth of five different currencies, along with several bank and credit cards, index cards containing historical data on Canada, encrypted prepaid cell phone cards and a shortwave radio.
Mr. Hampel is being held on a little-used national security law and faces deportation or prosecution for fraud in a secret trial.
A U.S. official said the capture was a coup for the Canadians, since deep-cover spies are very hard to find.
“Identifying and subsequently catching an Illegal is the creme de la creme of the counterintelligence business,” the official said.
The Canadian report noted that in 1996 two Russians were identified as an SVR illegal team and deported.
The FBI has not uncovered any SVR illegals in the United States, despite claims that spying by Russian intelligence in recent years is at Cold War levels.
The CIA identified a KGB illegal in 1989 posing as a Finnish national named Reino Gikman, who was photographed meeting State Department official Felix Bloch, a suspected Russian mole in the department who was never prosecuted.
“Hampel’s infiltration into Canada and development of a Canadian legend based on an identity created by the SVR has permitted Hampel to abuse the integrity of the Canadian system, including citizenship and all its inherent privileges,” the report said. “As a documented Canadian citizen, Hampel has been operating covertly on behalf of the SVR and, as such, poses a danger to Canada’s national security and Canada’s interests internationally.”
The report said the use of Canadian documents “provided him with the ability to covertly further the interests of the SVR for over a decade both within Canada and abroad.”
Georgi Mamedov, Russia’s ambassador to Canada, told a Canadian television station that he had no information about the case, and he sought to highlight Russia’s cooperation with Canada in the war on terrorism.
In Moscow, SVR spokesman Sergey Ivanov told the Interfax News Agency: “Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service, like any other foreign intelligence service, does not comment on whether an individual is or is not involved in its activities.”