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Spy in Canada?
Suspected Russian agent arrested in Montreal
Stewart Bell
National Post

Russian soldiers from the Presidential regiment perform during the ceremonial show marking the end of a touristic season at the Red Square outside Moscow's Kremlin, 28 October 2006.

TORONTO -- A suspected Russian spy has been arrested in Montreal as he was about to board a plane to leave the country, capping a Canadian counter-intelligence operation that suggests espionage is alive and well long after the Cold War.

The man, who had been living in Canada under the name Paul William Hampel, was taken into custody by Canada Border Services Agency officers at Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport in Dorval at around 6 p.m. Tuesday.

The arrest came after two federal Cabinet ministers signed a security certificate last Thursday declaring him a danger to Canada for espionage, paving the way for his deportation. It is the first security certificate approved by the government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

The case is described as highly sensitive and officials were saying little yesterday. Investigators were trying to confirm the suspect's true identity and the foreign intelligence agency he works for, but the case is being compared to a 1996 spy operation by the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service, or SVR.

Several security experts also said the description of his activities in Canada matches the methods traditionally used by the SVR's Directorate S, which runs a covert network of "illegals" — spies planted in foreign countries under deep cover.

Counter-intelligence officers at the Canadian Security Intelligence Service had been working to identify the man, who slipped illicitly into the country several years ago and maintained a low profile while developing a Canadian "legend," or false identity.

"A security certificate has been issued under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act against a foreign national alleging to be a Canadian citizen named Paul William Hampel," CSIS spokeswoman Barbara Campion said.

"He is now in custody in Montreal. This is not a counter-terrorism case. More information will become available as the Federal Court process unfolds. Any speculation about the individual's other nationality is premature at this point."

The Soviet KGB had an extensive spy program in Canada during the Cold War, but it did not end with the collapse of the Berlin Wall. The KGB's successor, the SVR, has continued to covertly plant intelligence operatives abroad.

The Montreal operation is reminiscent of a case 10 years ago involving a married Toronto couple who called themselves Ian Mackenzie Lambert and Laurie Brodie but who turned out to have been sent to Canada by the SVR.

A CSIS investigation concluded they were actually SVR spies named Dmitriy Vladimirovoch Olshevskiy and Yelena Borisovna Olshevskaya, who had stolen the identities of two dead Canadian children. Officials believe their assignment was to travel abroad for operations using their Canadian "legends."

The latest arrest suggests that Moscow continues to target Canada, which it views as a convenient "legend" for its spies as well as a source of economic, technological and military secrets in its own right.

Formed in 1991, the SVR is the successor to the First Directorate of the notorious KGB. Its aim is to advance Russian interests by collecting military, economic, technological and NATO secrets.

This is the first time Canada's controversial security certificate process has been used since the 2003 arrest of Moroccan Adil Charkaoui, an alleged al-Qaeda-trained sleeper, in Montreal.

National Post

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