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Ex-MI6 boss Richard Dearlove tells tale of handling Cold War double agent 

Licensed to spill: Ex-MI6 boss Richard Dearlove tells tale of handling Cold War double agent

  • Sir Richard Dearlove has given a rare insight into how he handled double agent
  • The case unfolded after Sir Richard was posted to the British embassy in Prague
  • Ex-MI6 chief revealed how the double agent’s daughter ended up very wealthy after receiving the thousands he was paid

EX-MI6 chief Sir Richard Dearlove has given a rare, personal insight into how he handled one of the West’s most important double agents during the Cold War.

He is not meant to talk about Secret Intelligence Service – the formal name for MI6 – operations, but said he has ‘licence to describe certain cases’ if the material is ‘already to an extent in the public domain’.

He also revealed at the Daily Mail Chalke Valley History Festival how the double agent’s daughter ended up very wealthy after receiving the thousands he was paid and hid in a London bank.

The case unfolded after Sir Richard was posted to the British embassy in Prague earlier in his career as a first secretary in communist Czechoslovakia in 1973 with his wife Rosalind.

EX-MI6 chief Sir Richard Dearlove has given a rare, personal insight into how he handled one of the West’s most important double agents during the Cold War. Dearlove pictured in a file image above 

‘I had obvious diplomatic tasks but I was there essentially as a member of SIS under diplomatic cover. My main job was to run an espionage case,’ he said.

It involved what is called a ‘walk-in’ – a man who had indicated to the British authorities he wanted to spy for them.

‘He was a Czech intelligence officer in charge of the operations that the Czechs were running to try and penetrate British intelligence,’ Sir Richard said.

He did not name the man but referred to how information about the case from the Czech archives had been publicised – a reference, it is understood, to reports about Miloslav Kroca, codename ‘Freed’, who was a KGB-trained major in the Czech secret police force.

Sir Richard told the festival: ‘Running a case like was a great risk – not to me, but to the source. If he was caught he would be executed.

‘Yet we were able to meet him regularly over a number of years. Because he himself was an intelligence officer he knew in detail the forces that were deployed against me by the Czechs on a continuous basis.

‘If you were a young energetic diplomat in the British embassy who spoke Czech you were suspected of being a spy. You were constantly being examined to see if you were running a case like this.’

But when the Czech officer had a heart attack and ended up in hospital, his Russian wife handed a bundle of secret papers into his office – among which was one that revealed instructions for his next rendezvous with Sir Richard.

Sir Richard said the meetings were carefully planned so he and the source came independently from different directions. Because of his training, Sir Richard knew the surveillance on him would be in front of, rather than behind, him, ‘i.e. cars parked at strategic places’.

‘We’re deep in the Czech countryside and I recognise them immediately because I know all the number plates that these are surveillance cars,’ he said. ‘They’re clearly trying to find out who’s going to the meeting. Of course, the agent doesn’t turn up and eventually he dies of natural causes.’

But Sir Richard, who was head of MI6 between 1999 and 2004, said the story had a ‘wonderful ending’. The source’s motivation had partly been revenge on his colleagues but he also wanted his daughter to have a different life.

‘He earned a lot of money that he never touched and went into a bank in London. Compound interest can make you very wealthy over a significant period of time,’ he said. Years later, a British intelligence officer went to Prague to see the president Vaclav Havel and said: ‘I want you to find this girl.’

Sir Richard added: ‘She’s had a terrible life, she didn’t know what had happened to her father other than something catastrophic. She is summoned to meet Havel and he hands her a cheque which is her father’s money – many, many thousands of pounds. She is now a very, very wealthy Czech businesswoman.’

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