How could the individual have fooled British counter-espionage to this extent? As revealed by the British daily The Times, an Afghan refugee who arrived in the United Kingdom in 2000 was accused of spying for Russia and stripped of his British citizenship acquired during his asylum in 2019.
As the evidence was not sufficient to charge him criminally, the individual was able to return to the United Kingdom after the fall of Kabul in the summer of 2021, where he had worked for several years. He is now challenging his loss of nationality before the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC), an appeals court that deals with national security issues.
The British secret service, however, claims that the man, whose name, kept secret, was replaced by the code “C2” during the hearing, “probably” served as a spy for the GRU, the military intelligence service. Russian, reports the British newspaper.
Born in Afghanistan, the individual went to Moscow where he lived for 6 years in the 1990s. “C2” studied there and got married. In 2000, he traveled to the United Kingdom with the help of a smuggler who provided him with a false Russian passport and a plane ticket to the Caribbean with a stopover in London where he presented himself at customs to request asylum. This is where the individual admitted at the hearing to having lied about his years spent in Russia for fear of being deported. At the check, he claims to have fled the Taliban regime because “his family was threatened by the mujahideen”. This story, according to him, was the “best story” for receiving the asylum he coveted.
In the United Kingdom, he studied intelligence and security, worked as a translator and then began working for the British intelligence services, in particular for GCHQ (Government Communications Headquarters) attached to the government.
He then returned to Afghanistan on behalf of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as cultural advisor for a reconstruction mission in the south of the country. It was in this post that he had the opportunity to meet the Prince of Wales and future King Charles III, as well as Prime Ministers Gordon Brown and David Cameron. He then left his job and found missions, notably for the Afghan Ministry of Commerce in Kabul.
The prosecution mainly accuses him of having been in contact at that time with two GRU agents in Kabul. He claims that he did not know their real function and that these meetings were purely “friendly” in the context of “alcoholic” evenings to share in particular “photos of rocket launchers and naked women”, reports the Washington Post.
During his years in Afghanistan, where he no longer worked for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, “C2” is said to have visited Russia at least six times. He admitted in particular to having met an official from the Russian Foreign Ministry. He admitted in particular to having transmitted copies of his identity card and commercial information linked to NATO, which, according to him, were not confidential.
It was also at this time that counter-espionage began to become suspicious and questioned him during a return trip to London to see his family. The MI5 agent, according to the person's statements in court, then accused him of having been trained by the GRU since the age of five. During another interview with counter-espionage, “C2” would have passed a lie detector test, and would have failed according to his accusers.
At the hearing before the Court of Appeal, the lawyer representing the Ministry of the Interior accused the person concerned of “misleading and implausible answers” as well as “lies”. If the judge for his part declared that the accused's defense could be credible, he also affirmed that the Afghan could still be considered a threat to national security.