MI5 suspected MP's intern was 'another Anna Chapman'

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Indy Politics

Lawyers for a former parliamentary researcher accused of spying yesterday claimed MI5 had pursued her only due to imagined parallels to a high-profile Russian "honey-trap" case.

The claims came as the alleged target of the honey trap, Liberal Democrat MP Mike Hancock, was revealed to have resigned from his defence Select Committee post. Mr Hancock, MP for Portsmouth South, conducted a four-year affair with Ekaterina "Katia" Zatuliveter, and employed her as an aide in his parliamentary office.

He stressed in a resignation letter that "at no time did I pass on material to Ms Zatuliveter which was not in the public domain or which was classified".

Cross-examining an unnamed MI5 counter-intelligence officer at Ms Zatuliveter's deportation appeal, Tim Owen, QC claimed the decision to investigate his client was "entirely the result of the Anna Chapman case and the publicity it aroused".

Anna Chapman was an attractive young Russian arrested in the United States with nine others in June last year for spying. Mr Owen said that once the parallel was drawn, MI5 ignored contradictory evidence to "fit everything into your preconceived determination of who she is".

The MI5 officer, known only as ZZ, said the cases were not the same, although there were similarities: Ms Chapman and Ms Zatuliveter were both young Russian women and "happened to be very adept networkers".

"Is that it?" said Mr Owen, who has described MI5's case as based on a "series of crude stereotypes". There were substantial differences between the cases, he said, chief among them "that the FBI's actually got some evidence".

Ms Zatuliveter, 26, had an affair with the 65-year-old MP from 2006 to 2010, living in his flat for a time. MI5 believes Mr Hancock was "targeted" by Russian intelligence because he sat on the Commons defence committee, chaired the all-party Russian group, represented an area with a Royal Navy base and was vulnerable due to previous extramarital affairs.

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