Nato spy suspects held in Germany

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The Independent Online
THE GERMAN Federal Prosecutor's Office last night confirmed the arrests of two people suspected of being key figures in a spy ring codenamed 'Topaz', which for more than 10 years betrayed top Nato secrets to what was then the Communist East.

The prime suspect was named solely as Rainer R, 47, an employee of East Germany's infamous Stasi secret police and espionage service. His wife, Christine-Ann, 45, a British subject, was said also to have passed, through him, sensitive material on to the Stasi, which in turn passed it on to Moscow.

According to the Prosecutor's Office, Rainer R left East Germany in 1968 and, like many of his colleagues, obtained West German citizenship with the aim of infiltrating an important military, political or industrial complex. By 1977 he had secured a post with the international section of Nato's economics department and two years later began delivering secrets to his masters in East Berlin.

While the Prosecutor's Office did not confirm newspaper reports that the Topaz ring had transmitted more than 10,000 pages of secret Nato documents to the East Germans in the 10 years of its operation until 1989, it did concede that the information sent had been 'reliable' and 'always up to date'.

The fact that it had fallen into East German and then Soviet hands had 'severely disadvantaged' West German security.

In addition to Rainer R and his wife, two further suspected members of the Topaz ring were arrested in Germany at the weekend. They were subsequently released after questioning, the Prosecutor's Office said.

According to the mass circulation newspaper Bild am Sonntag, a total of six suspected Topaz agents were arrested at the weekend. The paper quoted one German investigator as saying the spy ring represented 'the most extensive betrayal of secrets in Nato'.

The weekend arrests come just weeks after Moscow handed Germany some 2,000 files relating to espionage activity during the Communist era. Some observers estimate that up to 1,000 politicians, church dignitories and journalists may be revealed as former spies as a result of the files.

Peter Frish, the deputy head of Germany's Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV), said in an interview that thanks to the new files, many new cases had been opened up. He predicted many more revelations in the coming weeks and urged all former spies to give themselves up early if they wanted lenient sentences.

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