On 15 March 1996 a friend of mine sent me a letter. He was trying to find me an expert who might help with some of the issues in my case, and he said the following:
“Janet [his wife] was watching local news on television recently when she called me in, as a certain Professor Christopher Andrew of Cambridge University was being interviewed about Blunt, Philby, etc. He’s an espionage expert - probably writes books on the subject. I’ve found his address you could write to: his name in the Cambridge University Telephone Directory is Prof. C.M. Andrew, Corpus Christi College, Trumpington Street, Cambridge, CB2 1RH. He might know something about Mr Viktor Oshchenko? Or perhaps he might be useful in some other way. I’ll leave it to you if you want to contact him, but if you prefer I’ll do it in the first instance, just let me know. Tim [another friend] thinks it might be a good idea to contact him.”
Within a few days I had drafted a letter to send to Professor Andrew, and below is a copy of the text I sent him.
From: Michael John Smith
H.M.P. Full Sutton, York
25th March 1996
To: Professor Christopher M. Andrew
Corpus Christi College
Cambridge CB2 1RH
Dear Professor Andrew,
The Role of Viktor Oshchenko
Forgive me for approaching you this way, but a friend of mine saw your television interview recently, concerning your expertise in the field of espionage, and he thought that you might be able to help me.
You may remember my case: I was convicted on 18 November 1993 for allegedly spying for the KGB; however, I maintain that I am innocent of this charge, and I have submitted a complaint to the European Commission on Human Rights, that I did not have a fair trial.
The Prosecution invited the jury to see me as suspicious, largely based on hypothetical arguments and biased information. Much of the Prosecution evidence should have been ruled inadmissible on the grounds that it was not pertinent to the actual charges against me. The Prosecution insisted that evidence was heard “in camera”, and, as a result, they were able to say things which, if they were said in public, would have alerted experts that the Prosecution case relied on speculation and distortion.
There were two main Prosecution claims against me:
(1) that I leaked sensitive national secrets
(2) that I had worked for the KGB
1. The Scientific Evidence
Following my arrest, I asserted that I did not handle sensitive scientific information (I lost my security clearance in 1978). The material presented at my trial was exaggerated to the extent that my expert proved that most of the Prosecution’s scientific exhibits were already in the public domain. In spite of the weaknesses of the Prosecution’s scientific arguments, one witness, Dr Meirion Lewis, went largely unchallenged because his evidence was undisclosed until mid-trial and it was impossible for the Defence to find an expert at short notice. It was, I believe, the evidence of Dr Lewis that convinced the jury that the exhibits in my case were sensitive, although I have since found the same material published in books, which makes Dr Lewis look extremely unreliable. Dr Lewis said he was imparting “sensitive” information, whereas the material in books goes further than Dr Lewis and had been published as long ago as 1985, 7 years before my arrest.
2. Viktor Oshchenko
This was the other key area of evidence: the allegations that Viktor Oshchenko recruited me into the KGB around the mid 1970s; that he had regular meetings with me; that he trained me in tradecraft techniques; that he paid me money, and; that he directed me into various activities for the KGB. The prosecution resorted to some particularly dirty tricks in order to obtain my conviction, not only distorting the meaning and significance of the exhibits in the case, but they also re-arranged and added details to modify my personal history.
It should be borne in mind that Oshchenko worked at the Soviet Embassy in London between 29 August 1972 and 22 September 1979. At my trial, it was admitted by a “Mrs C”, Head of a Security Service section (which studies methods used by hostile intelligence services in the UK), that Oshchenko was identified as a KGB officer within 12 to 18 months of his arrival in the UK. It is clear that all Oshchenko’s movements would have been closely monitored, but “Mrs C” admitted there was no evidence that I met Oshchenko, or any Russians, at any time in the past: no photographs, no surveillance logs, etc - nothing in fact that would have enabled the Prosecution to claim I had been involved with Oshchenko.
It is puzzling that, as a known KGB officer, Oshchenko was allowed to stay in the UK for such a long time after he was unmasked (over 5 extra years of spying), when so many other Russian spies were expelled.
Later, Oleg Gordievsky headed the London KGB (about 1982-85), and he exposed the KGB’s spying operations in the UK - but my name was not mentioned by him. When Gordievsky gave evidence against me at my trial, he said he knew nothing about me; this seems strange when I am supposed to have been one of the KGB’s spies between the 1970s and the 1990s. Gordievsky played a key role in my conviction, but he was found to have been incorrect about me and George Robertson in his book “Next Stop Execution”, and he also has been tainted by his accusations about Michael Foot and others. Despite his somewhat tarnished credibility, the Prosecution still referred to Gordievsky as a “witness of truth”.
Later, in July 1992, Oshchenko defected and I was arrested about 10 days later. I am very suspicious of the circumstances behind my arrest - the fact that my arrest was directly linked to Oshchenko’s defection - Oshchenko never appeared at my trial, and, to my knowledge, he has never made any public appearances or media interviews; nobody else was arrested.
The Jury found it odd that, after Oshchenko had been referred to many times, by the end of the trial he was not called to give evidence; it so confused the jury that they asked 2 questions about his non-appearance. I find this all very suspicious, I believe that there is something undisclosed behind Oshchenko’s silence - maybe he is linked to another issue too embarrassing to reveal or, maybe, he was a double-agent since the 1970s. I can only speculate that I was used as a scapegoat for something more sinister. If Oshchenko does prove to have a dubious past, such as a previous relationship with the British Security Services, then this in itself could provide a sufficient condition for my release.
In preparation for my trial, my Defence team investigated espionage methods and consulted a number of experts in the field - William E. Colby (former Head of the CIA) and Philip Agee (former CIA officer), both doubted that the circumstances of my case were typical of the KGB - and a former high-ranking CIA officer and station chief, referred to as “Mr P”, said at my trial that he did not believe the KGB were involved. Even Oleg Kalugin was going to say that he did not consider me a KGB agent, but, as you may remember, Kalugin was arrested at Heathrow 2 days before he was due to give evidence at my trial, and that destroyed him as a witness for the Defence (another dirty trick by the Prosecution).
The fact that the espionage and tradecraft evidence at my trial was held “in camera”, prevented outsiders from seeing the weaknesses of the material against me. I, and my lawyers, believe that I have been the victim of a Security Service plot.
I am particularly anxious to uncover anything which could open up new avenues to develop my fight for justice. I have now been in prison for more than 3½ years, which is destroying my life. I am badly in need of any assistance that you can give me and I would be very grateful if you could answer the questions:
Can you shed any light on what Oshchenko was up to before his defection; any information that might link him to other cases; anything that would explain his continued silence? Is he still alive?
I thank you in anticipation for any help which you can give to me.
Michael John Smith
For some reason I received no reply, and so I contacted my friend again to see if he could chase up what had happened to my letter. I received the following in a letter dated 24 April 1996:
“I contacted by phone Professor Andrew on Saturday 20th April. It seems he had not received your letter so I said I would deliver a copy by hand to the college porter’s office, which I did on 22nd April. What few words I had with him it seems he might not know much about Mr Viktor Oshchenko. Still he might come in useful I hope.
This does raise the question of the security of your mail on leaving or not leaving the prison …”
It was an unfortunate aspect of prison life that letters sent or received sometimes do not get to their destination. Whenever I raised this matter there was always a blank look - that it had nothing to do with anybody in the prison - but never the less I became worried enough that I started asking for proof of posting on every letter I sent out. This problem was experienced by other prisoners as well, and so I believe there was some deliberate interference with my mail. It came to a head when I learned that a whole series of 7 letters to my solicitor had not arrived at her office - as this occurred at a time when I was taking the MoD to court over interfering with the content of my letters, it was clearly not helpful that my solicitor was not receiving instructions from me. Who says such things cannot happen in Britain - Big Brother can do anything!
But I will come back to the point of this post. Needless to say I never received even an acknowledgement of my letter from Christopher Andrew. For some reason, I cannot imagine why, I never realised that Professor Christopher Andrew was the very same man with whom Oleg Gordievsky was co-authoring his books. Still less was I aware, at the time, that Professor Andrew was a friend of MI6. No doubt Professor Andrew and his MI6 chums had a good laugh at my expense over this error.