MP 'asks lobby group for money for Russian spy'

 

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The Independent Online

An MP accused of employing a Russian spy as his House of Commons researcher solicited money from an Azerbaijani lobbying group to help pay her visa fees, she has claimed.

Mike Hancock, who was having an affair with Ekaterina Zatuliveter, asked for the money from the European Azerbaijan Society in 2009. TEAS is a lobby group which is controlled by the sons of a powerful Azerbaijani minister.

According to papers filed by Ms Zatuliveter at the Special Immigration Appeals Commission and seen by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, which alerted The Independent, Mr Hancock asked TEAS in 2009 to pay her for her work. Mr Hancock has not denied the claim but he rejected a suggestion Ms Zatuliveter was lobbying for TEAS while simultaneously acting as his researcher.

Ms Zatuliveter is fighting deportation after being accused of having an affair with Mr Hancock, the Liberal Democrat MP for Portsmouth South, and using her position as a Commons researcher to pass secrets to the Russians. She also admits affairs with a Nato worker and a senior UN official.

Ms Zatuliveter's statement, made in her appeal against deportation for suspected espionage on behalf of Russia, says she had spent £2,000 on legal fees relating to her visa and was running into financial problems. She said: "Mike suggested to the European Azerbaijan Society that they might pay me for the lobbying and consultancy work that I had done for them as his parliamentary researcher over a number of months. They very kindly made a payment of £3,000 to me on 22 June."

The Bureau asked Mr Hancock, who was a member of the Defence Select Committee at the time but has since resigned, whether he had asked TEAS to pay Ms Zatuliveter. A spokesman for the MP replied: "She got in contact with the society while working in Parliament. Any work she did was in her spare time."

A spokesman for TEAS said: "Ms Zatuliveter assisted us with a photographic exhibition, for which her fee was £3,000. She offered her assistance in a private capacity."

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