Obituary: Georges Paques

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The Independent Online
Georges Paques, public relations officer: born Chalon-sur-Saone 29 January 1914; died Paris 19 December 1993.

THE FRENCH used to say that having traitors in high places was essentially a British disease. But the case of Georges Paques changed their ideas, and it is customary now in France to see ex-Soviet agents everywhere.

Paques supplied information to the Russians for many years. It was in 1943 that he was first approached. He was then working in Algiers for the provisional government headed by General de Gaulle in the political section of the French radio station. Doubtless the Russians were interested to learn about the contacts that were then taking place between Algiers and Paris and to learn about possible future developments in France, but it is unlikely that they discovered anything of great value.

Once France had been liberated Paques served several ministers during the Fourth Republic. It seems improbable that he had much secret information to convey, even while working for Georges Bidault in the Quai d'Orsay. But with the coming of the Fifth Republic, he was attached to the military headquarters of the Defence staff. In 1962 he was transferred to Nato.

Although Paques was essentially a public relations man it appears that he was able to supply information that was of some importance. He was able to discover details about the radar positions established in Turkey, about plans for the defence of Berlin and intelligence reports concerning the Middle East and North Africa.

Paques was arrested in August 1963. He had been denounced by a Soviet defector and was caught red- handed handing information to his Russian controller. Rumours grew that a number of agents had infiltrated the top levels of the French administration and it was whispered that de Gaulle's Soviet sympathies were of a very special nature. It was remembered that when de Gaulle was out of power, before 1958, he was kept informed about France's progress towards nuclear weapons and about defence matters by a number of individuals who sympathised with him. French security, it was said, was laughable.

These stories were undoubtedly exaggerated. But the case of Paques showed that they contained a grain of truth. No one had suspected this placid, easy-going man, who had no Communist leanings, and who claimed that his activities had existed only to preserve peace between the United States and the Soviet Union. Doubtless vanity was the real explanation for his actions and doubtless he had convinced his Soviet masters that he was more important than he was. He was given a life sentence in 1964, which de Gaulle reduced to 20 years in 1968. He was freed in 1970.

Paques was a specialist in Italian studies. After his release he translated Italian novels and adapted Italian plays for television. He also wrote an autobiographical novel.