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Cold War spymaster stays out of jail

Dusseldorf (AP) - Markus Wolf, the legendary former East German spymaster, seen above leaving court with his wife Andrea, was convicted yesterday of four Cold War kidnappings and given a two-year suspended sentence.

The Dusseldorf State Supreme Court verdict means that Wolf - who has never served a prison sentence since the collapse of East Germany despite two convictions - can be certain he never will.

It constitutes yet another victory for Wolf, who spent three Cold War decades outfoxing Western intelligence agents while having his own agents steal vital Nato secrets.

Wolf's knowledge was considered so valuable that in 1990, when he was retired, a top official with the CIA offered him cash, a home in California and a new identity if he cooperated with the American spy agency, at least according to Wolf's memoirs, due out in 13 countries on 1 June.

He says he turned down the CIA offer, even though it would have put him out of the reach of German prosecutors.

Photograph: Reuters