Sex antics of 'real James Bond' upset the US

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The Independent Online

The British spy whose playboy exploits during the Second World War were reputedly the inspiration for James Bond created a rift between MI5 and the FBI over his lifestyle.

Secret intelligence files released today reveal how the high spending and sexual antics of Dusko Popov, a Yugoslavian double agent appalled the Americans while on a long-term mission to New York.

Popov, who became one of Britain's top spies in a network set up to spread disinformation to the Nazis, fell foul of the FBI head Edgar Hoover after running up a huge bill in Manhattan.

The agent, whose codename Tricycle was reputedly given to him for his preference for three-in-a-bed sex, spent $80,000 (equivalent to $1m or £640,000 today) during his counter-espionage operation. To the horror of Hoover, the undercover agent, who had been recruited by the Germans and then "turned" by the British, dated a Hollywood star, Simone Simon, while in the US.

Security Service files released at the Public Record Office in Kew, west London, show Hoover criticised Britain's handling of its Yugoslav as "objectionable". MI5 complained that there had been a lack of co-operation from the Americans.

Despite finding out in 1941 that the Germans were interested in Pearl Harbour – four months before the Japanese attack – MI5 admitted Tricycle's stay was "not, on the whole, a happy one".

One handler wrote: "Throughout his stay in the United States he lived the life of a playboy. He seeks to excuse his extravagance on the grounds that he had to acquire suitable social contacts from whom he would be supposed to obtain information.

"The excuse is a bad one as he obtains no information himself and the contacts upon whom he spent his money, such as Simone Simon, are not of interest to a spy as such." As well as spending the $80,000 in 14 months, Popov took a "most expensive" penthouse on Park Avenue, went skiing and rented a country house, the handler added.

Popov's adventures, which were published in an autobiography in 1974, are thought to have been known to Ian Fleming, who worked for British intelligence before he created James Bond.

The MI5 file adds that when Tricycle was recalled to London, he apparently pined for his film star girlfriend before reverting to type.

It said: "Tricycle and Simone Simon appear to have been genuinely attached to each other and he obviously missed her greatly on coming to England, although he was not long in seeking to console himself elsewhere."