07 February 2006

Stephen Dorril & Viktor Oshchenko

I remember one day somebody passed me a copy of a book, and I was told to read the paragraph in the book that mentioned my case. There was nothing in that paragraph that I had not seen before, but it did revive my interest in trying to uncover more about what Viktor Oshchenko had been up to before he defected. I was particularly curious at why the story kept cropping up that Oshchenko had defected because he was about to be exposed as a double agent. This did not agree with any of the evidence my defence team had been given, which said Oshchenko had not been a double agent until the point he walked into the British Embassy in Paris on 20 July 1992, and by 25 July he was in the UK - not much time to be a double agent it would appear!

Anyway, I should tell you what that book was called, because it is a good read: “The Silent Conspiracy - Inside The Intelligence Services in The 1990’s” by Stephen Dorril (editor of Lobster, a British journal about the security services). This book was published by Mandarin in January 1993 (ISBN No. 0-7493-1094-4), and I believe it is still available from Amazon. The paragraph that mentioned my case is the following:

“Victor Oshchenko, who served in London during the mid-seventies, had been based in Paris since October 1985. An economics counsellor in the Soviet embassy, who in his intelligence work specialised in science and technology, Oshchenko defected to MI6 in July 1992 when he was about to be exposed as a double agent. His defection led to the expulsion from France of four Russian embassy officials, following the break-up of a spy ring. In Britain, Oshchenko’s debriefing led to the arrest of a former systems sales manager at GEC-Marconi, Michael Smith, who was charged with breaching the Official Secrets Act. In an exclusive in the Sunday Times, it was alleged that the GEC-Marconi employee was ‘a professional agent, highly trained in tradecraft’, who had passed secret defence details to the Russians. A row was said to be going on inside MI5 because in 1976 the Security Service had identified the man, who had gained a high security clearance while working for EMI, as a likely KGB mole. MI5 had known that he was a member of the Communist Party, but had failed to deny him access to sensitive defence material. Oshchenko was believed to have been the British mole’s case officer during the mid-seventies.” (page 444)

References quoted:
Guardian, 14/8/92 and 30/10/92.
Daily Telegraph, 13 and 14/8/92.
Sunday Times, 16/8/92 and 6/9/92.

In fact, I learned later that Mr Dorril was inconvenienced over the original paragraph in The Silent Conspiracy. The Attorney General made Mr Dorril withdraw the book and have it reprinted, because he objected to the book’s view that the Sunday Times article of 6 September 1992 was prejudicial to a fair trial - the article set out the prosecution case, including allegations with which I was not charged. I learned from my solicitor at trial, Mr Richard Jefferies, that shortly before this Sunday Times article had been printed a source had leaked the story to the press. Apparently this source had been fishing for somebody prepared to print it, and I believe the Guardian was also approached about the story, but in the end did not receive it.

Who would know sufficient information to leak a story like that, I wonder, especially as my case was sub judice? Even though I was not named specifically, who else could the article have referred to? The only organisations that had the information from which this story could be compiled were Special Branch and MI5, and this is just another part of the dirty tricks campaign I spoke of before. In the case of Stephen Dorril, he had to pay the price for identifying the underhanded methods used to get the prosecution story into the public domain - his book was censored. However, the real leakers of that story went un-named and unpunished - such is the rule and the spirit of the law in Britain.

Please, tell me I am wrong! I would love to be shown that I am the uninformed one in this matter. Come on all you MI5 and Special Branch smart-arses, explain to me how these stories get out into the press, and while you’re about it, explain how one of my wedding photos was published in The Sun newspaper? Does offering my private photographs to a newspaper mean that civil servants use this trick to supplement their pay, or possibly it helps to cement the police story in the public’s mind.

This photograph was used to promote a particularly nasty deception by the police, because they told my wife that the KGB had ordered me to marry her as a cover for spying. This is a complete fabrication, and there was no evidence whatsoever to even contemplate that this story might have been true. Unfortunately, because it came from the police, my wife eventually divorced me and even used it as one of her grounds during the divorce proceedings. So it was inexcusable for the police to tell my wife a lie, but even worse that they used one of my own photographs to sell that story to The Sun newspaper.

To continue. Below is one of the first letters I received from Stephen Dorril after I asked him for his help:

From: Stephen Dorril

2 July 1996

To: Michael John Smith
H.M.P. Full Sutton, York

Dear Michael Smith,
Thank you for your letter (26 June). I enclose two copies of Lobster which may be of interest (I am waiting for new copies of number 29 which contains a piece on your case - namely the evidence of the woman MI5 officer - I will forward this).

I, of course, remember your case with great interest and would like to help if I can. Unfortunately, at the moment I do not think that there is anything I can add to what you already know. I know no more about Victor Oshchenko than what has been reported in the press. All I can do is look out for anything which crops up on him and ask various people I know if they are aware of any further information. If any information does come up I will, of course, pass it on to you.

I wonder if it would be useful for Lobster to publish a version of your letter. There are some interesting subscribers in the intelligence world, journalism and among researchers on intelligence who may have come across something. I know that the details of your case, particularly the Oshchenko aspect, which was poorly covered in the press will be of interest. It may be a way of generating some further research.

I am currently putting together the next issue (over the next three weeks). It looks like you have access to a computer. A computer disc, if possible, would be the most convenient - Macintosh the best but Windows or DOS okay.

You may like to know that I was forced to withdraw my last book and have a page replaced because of your case (not your fault I may add). Unfortunately, the late James Rusbridger, in one of his mischievous actions - even after he sought my help on MI5 aspects of your case, suggested to the Attorney General that a paragraph in the book, Silent Conspiracy: Inside the Intelligence Services in the 1990s, was in contempt of court. This was even though I was suggesting that the Sunday Times had written an article prejudicial to your defence. Unfortunately, the AG threatened to injunct the book unless it was removed from the shelves.

I would be pleased to help if I can.

Yours sincerely,
Stephen Dorril

Nearly four years later, when there had been more media coverage about the Melita Norwood case, Stephen Dorril finally found a newspaper article in which Viktor Oshchenko was mentioned, and he sent me a copy. The story was printed in The Times of 14 June 2000, and was titled “Extraordinary secrets of the KGB that took my breath away” by our old friend Professor Christopher Andrew. The relevant words were:

‘Since the publication of The Mitrokhin Archive last September, Viktor Oshchenko, a former senior officer in KGB scientific and technological intelligence, has passed on to me his recollections of the Norwood case. She was, he recalls, “a legendary case in the annals of the KGB - an important, determined and very valuable spy”.’


  1. Anonymous3:39 AM

    What an iteresting account; do you consider Professor Christopher Andrew a 'stool pigeon' I wonder.

  2. I guess 'stool pigeon' might be one way to describe Professor Andrew. I am sure the Professor would willingly inform MI6/MI5 about any information he believes may interest them. However, I think his main role is to pass information from MI6 (and possibly other secret agencies) to the public domain. Many people would believe a story from a respected academic, whereas they might doubt the word of a civil servant.