02 February 2007

Frederico Duarte Carvalho Focus espionage article

KGB spy conspiracy in Oporto

The Englishman Michael John Smith was convicted of spying for the KGB. Two maps of Oporto were used as evidence against him

It was two minutes past nine on the morning of Saturday, eighth of August 1992, when the English engineer Michael John Smith, then aged 43, received a phone call. The caller identified himself as George and said he was a friend of a certain Victor, who was someone that would be known to Michael Smith. The dialogue was brief and the engineer, who had barely awoken, just answered “yes” and “ok”.

George seemed to have a foreign accent and asked that, within 15 minutes, the Englishman should go to a phone kiosk in a street near to his home. Michael took a shower and he went out to search for the phone kiosk.

Trap - Before the arrest, MI5 photographed Michael Smith after the trick that led him to a phone box

He had no idea that George was in reality an agent of the British Secret Service, MI5, which had set up a trap. All of Michael Smith’s steps on that morning were recorded at a distance by the Secret Service’s cameras. On return to his home, the engineer was detained by plainclothes agents, who put him into an unmarked car and took him away for an interrogation that lasted four days.

For having followed those instructions on the telephone, Michael Smith ended up by falling into the MI5 trap and this led to the accusation that he was an experienced spy of the KGB. The trial began a year later in London’s Old Bailey court. On the18th of November 1993, Michael John Smith was sentenced to 25 years of imprisonment, but he had the penalty reduced to 20 years after an appeal. He was released on parole licence in November of 2002, although, even so, he is prohibited from travelling outside the United Kingdom until August of this year [2007].

After 10 years in prison, divorced, without children, he survives thanks to the help of his octogenarian mother, and, at almost 60 years of age, he cannot find a job. Michael John Smith has not yet given up his fight for Justice. He prepares successive appeals and has created a blog to denounce the case (http://parellic.blogspot.com). He says that he is innocent, the victim of a cabal of the British Secret Services.

At the time of the arrest, inside the trunk of his car were papers taken from his desk at work. The MI5 agents would say later that they were documents containing State secrets; plans for missiles.

At Michael Smith’s house, besides about two thousand pounds in cash, there were several maps of European cities together with some souvenirs he kept from trips abroad. A map of Oporto city centre, where the engineer had been with a friend in the summer of 1977, was among these souvenirs. The document aroused the curiosity and suspicion of the MI5 agents, because it was marked with four crosses, two arrows and a circle.

The maps have arrows and crosses that MI5 said was from a KGB mission

The map ended up being used by the prosecution to prove that Michael John Smith had been a KGB spy during the 70’s. According to MI5, the Oporto map would correspond to an “espionage training mission” in support of the Soviets. The engineer tried to prove that the crosses and arrows corresponded to tourist directions, but in vain. To support that Portugal was a location for KGB spy missions, MI5 even presented during the trial the example of a mission by an American living in the United Kingdom, identified as “Mr. E”, who had been in the Campo de Ourique area, in Lisbon, in the summer of 1979. (See separate section at the end of the article).

A former KGB double agent and refugee in England, Oleg Gordievsky, also testified in support of MI5 on his expertise in espionage procedures. This Russian had been chief of the Soviet secret services in London during the 80’s, but he had never had any knowledge of the spy Michael John Smith - an extremely common name in England. The testimony of the ex-KGB agent, however, showed it was vital the jury got the idea that the Oporto map could have served perfectly for meeting spies of the former Soviet Union. According to Oleg Gordievsky’s opinion, Michael John Smith could have followed a particular route within the marked places, being watched by somebody to identify him in order to later establish contact.

At the time he was faced with the map Michael John Smith defended himself and said that he had travelled to Oporto between 11 and 13 August 1977, but always in the company of a friend. They had travelled in his car, a Triumph Spitfire, and had stayed at the Parque de Campismo da Prelada: “The map was given to us by the campsite’s receptionist. I left my car parked at the campsite and the crosses, arrows and circle represented the bus stops for the centre of Oporto and return to the campsite”, he told us.

Prelada - He stayed in the Prelada camping park with a friend. Here they picked up the bus for the centre

In fact, at the place where there is a cross with a pointer to the right and identified by MI5 with the number one, at Sá da Bandeira Street, the number six bus used to stop there, coming from the Prelada campsite.

Sá da Bandeira - The marks on the map that MI5 considered to be indications of a KGB espionage mission identify bus stops. The English engineer says that there was clear manipulation of the evidence

The second cross, accompanied by the arrow pointed to the left, is in Liberdade Square, in Oporto’s downtown, in front of the Central Bank of Portugal, a place where also could be found a number six bus stop to return to the campsite.

Drop-off - One of the “suspicious” marks indicates the bus stop to go back in the return direction

Lisboa Square - Another of the marks on the map indicates Lisboa Square, close to the symbolic Clérigos Tower

The other two crosses identify the Lisboa Square, next to the historic and symbolic Clérigos tower, and also highlights the S. João Novo Square near the tourist area of Ribeira, where the O Fado restaurant is located. Let us also add, that in Lisboa Square is the number six bus stop nearest to this restaurant. A second Oporto map, provided by the Prelada camping site, displaying an advertisement for the O Fado restaurant, was also found amongst the papers at the engineer’s home.

Vacation - Michael Smith says that he was only in Oporto for a holiday. He kept the maps as a memento

O Fado - Michael Smith had dinner in the O Fado restaurant. This tourist place was also marked on the map

But for MI5, none of Michael John Smith’s logical explanations were enough to convince them that he had never been on a spy mission at the request of the KGB. Another fact was discovered in Oporto by FOCUS, that even today there is a photo of Michael John Smith in an album at Associação Recreativa da Vitória, halfway between the O Fado restaurant and the number six bus stop in Lisboa Square.

Vitória - In the club on Vitória Street there is a photo of the English engineer’s time in Oporto, in August 1977

“When I left the restaurant, with my friend, we saw a street party. We stayed there drinking beer and socializing. When I returned to London, I sent them a photo as a souvenir”. The photo is still there today, glued into the association’s photo album.

A photograph taken during the holiday in Oporto, in 1977, shows Michael Smith being sociable with local people

About three years before Michael John Smith was arrested, the Berlin Wall fell and the eastern governments believed that, with the end of the Cold War, the spying game had finished. In 1991, one year before, there was also the end of the Soviet Union and the KGB itself. However, Michael John Smith’s case was then presented as an example that the danger from Russian espionage was still very real and, therefore, MI5 should continue to receive more financial funding from Her Majesty’s Government. It is a case that is still quoted today as a serious example in espionage studies.

“I believe that my case was ‘arranged’ during the years that followed the fall of the Berlin Wall. To be used at the appropriate occasion. I was a ‘scapegoat’ for preserving MI5’s power and their high budget”, the English engineer told FOCUS.

Citizen Smith, who was born in September 1948, the same year when George Orwell wrote the novel 1984 - on which he denounces a society controlled by it’s rulers through the monitoring system of “Big Brother” - has grounds to show that a plot against him might have started two years prior to his arrest.

On the eve of his arrest, Michael had been considered redundant and was fired from his job. He worked as a quality control engineer at GEC - Hirst Research Centre - a private company whose list of clients included the British Ministry of Defence. Two years before, in 1990, the engineer received a phone call while at work. He later met that person in a pub. The caller’s name was said to be Harry Williams. For the next two years, Williams paid good money to the engineer. About 20 thousand pounds (30 thousand euros), in exchange for papers that Michael swears to be “of little importance”.

“Williams was not foreign and it seemed to me that he was pleased with these documents. They were not State Secrets and, at that time, I was discontented with my salary. The company was firing people and I believed that my name was also to be included on that list. Williams’ extra money was, therefore, welcomed. I thought that it was a case of industrial espionage, but never a betrayal in favour of the Russians”, says Michael Smith who planned to emigrate to New Zealand after being fired.

Oschenko - Ex-KGB agent denounced him in exchange for exile

A few days before his arrest, a Russian agent at the Paris embassy, Victor Oshchenko, defected to England. There is now the suspicion that he was a MI5 double agent, and the arrest of Michael Smith was his exchange deal to justify the exile. Oschenko never appeared in court to testify.


Mission in Campo de Ourique

A meeting between KGB spies occurred in July 1979, in front of a Hi Fi store, next to the Europa cinema.

Example - MI5 presented the mission in Lisbon as an example of the importance of Portugal in the spy game

During the trial of Michael John Smith, in 1993, the London court was presented with the case of Mr “E”, a North American who lived in the United Kingdom and who was recruited to the KGB. One of the training missions that Mr “E” had to make involved a trip to Lisbon, between the 21 and 23 of July 1979. As soon as he arrived from London, he was lodged at the Flórida hotel, in Marquês de Pombal Square, and later he took a taxi to Campo de Ourique. Mr “E” carried notes for a route that he should follow in that area and that, in practice, would take him on a walk around the Jardim da Parada in order to be identified. The meeting with his KGB contact was to be later in front of the shop window of a store of Hi Fi products, Minimax, that then existed next to the Europa cinema, in Francisco Metrass Street. The spoken code words would have been: “Oh yes, you liked JBL. I liked Tannoy.”

The route of Mr “E”

(1) Mr “E” arrived by taxi near to the Europa cinema, in Francisco Metrass Street. There, he was to look in the shop window of the old Hi Fi store, Minimax, for five minutes.

(2) Then he walked to the corner of Coelho da Rocha Street and turned left in the direction of Tomás da Anunciação Street.

(3) He turned left into Tomás da Anunciação Street and continued until Almeida e Sousa Street.

(4) He turned right into Almeida e Sousa Street in the direction of Ferreira Borges Street, passing by the south side of the Jardim da Parada.

(5) He turned left into Ferreira Borges Street, in the direction of Infantaria 16 Street.

(6) He followed Infantaria 16 Street until the corner with Francisco Metrass Street, passing by the north side of the Jardim da Parada.

(7) He turned left into Francisco Metrass Street and continued to the meeting place with the KGB agent, in front of the Minimax, where he said the code words to the person who was waiting next to the shop window.