Spy 'just wants to concentrate on selling houses, not her story'

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Anna Chapman's lawyer yesterday dismissed claims that his client is being held for interrogation by the Russian secret services, instead saying that the redheaded spy is spending time with her family and trying to restart her real estate business.

Russian media have speculated that Ms Chapman, along with the other nine spies deported from the US earlier this month, are being held in a secret facility belonging to the SVR, Russia's external intelligence agency, at Yasenevo in southern Moscow. Sources in the SVR said they are being interrogated and debriefed there by SVR agents.

Yesterday, however, Robert Baum, who acted as Ms Chapman's lawyer in the US and says he is still in regular contact with her, claimed that the 28-year-old has had very little contact with the Russian government since her return to Moscow, and that her energies were focused on her business career.

He also told the Associated Press that Ms Chapman was "particularly upset" that she had been stripped of her British citizenship. "It was disappointing to learn she can't go back," he said. Ms Chapman gained her British passport through a marriage to Alex Chapman who, when the spy scandal broke, provided naked photos of her to several tabloid newspapers.

The lawyer also denied that Ms Chapman was planning to sell her story. "She has not been shopping her story. She's not granted any interviews. She has not hired an agent," said Mr Baum.

This is at odds with messages sent to journalists from Ms Chapman, or someone pretending to be her and using her Facebook account. Several Russian and international journalists who have sent questions and interview requests to Ms Chapman's account on the website have been sent a response asking them to make bids. A clause in Ms Chapman's plea agreement forbids her from making money from selling her story in book or film form, but it is unclear how this would be enforced outside the US.

And Hollywood's appetite for her tale is undoubted. Angelina Jolie, who will be in Moscow this weekend for the Russian premiere of her new film Salt, has invited Ms Chapman to attend the opening and says she would love to meet the spy. In the film, Jolie plays Evelyn Salt, a CIA officer accused of spying for Russia. It is unclear whether Ms Chapman will be able or willing to attend the premiere. She has also received offers to appear in adult films.

Ms Chapman was arrested along with nine other Russians in an FBI swoop in late June. The 10 were believed to be part of a Russian "deep cover" spy ring operating in the US, though they did not appear to have uncovered any sensitive information. They were swapped in a carefully choreographed handover at Vienna airport with four Russian citizens who had been jailed in Russia for spying for the West. One of those, Igor Sutyagin, who has been staying in a hotel in Britain since the swap, said yesterday that he planned to return to Russia. "I'm going to return... and fix the rickety porch of our house," he said in a statement that was read on Ekho Moskvy radio yesterday. "Sooner or later, I don't know yet, but this will happen."