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Russian spy ring suspect jumps bail in Cyprus


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Larnaca police station, where Christopher Metsos was to present himself daily in accordance with his bail conditions. Photograph: Andreas Lazarou/AFP/Getty Images

The Russian espionage drama intensfied tonight as the alleged paymaster in the "deep cover" spy ring failed to answer bail in Cyprus.

An arrest warrant was issued for Christopher Metsos, the 11th suspected member of the operation, after he failed to report to a police station in Larnaka, the Guardian has learned.

Metsos, 55, was arrested in Cyprus on Tuesday but, to the surprise of Cypriot police, was released on bail. Ten other accused are in custody in the US, after the FBI broke up the alleged ring on Monday.

"An arrest warrant has been issued and if found he will be arrested immediately," an officer at the police station in Larnaka told the Guardian. "He has broken his pledge to be here."

Metsos was first stopped at 9am yesterday at Larnaca airport by officers acting on an Interpol "red notice", moments before he was about to board a plane to Budapest.

Appearing before a district court judge, Metsos was told he could walk free, pending an extradition hearing within 30 days, if he posted €20,000 (£16,000) bail.

Metsos, who is thought to have been travelling on a Canadian passport, is believed to have returned immediately to his hotel in Larnaca, which he had checked out of only hours before.

Suspects arrested on the island are almost always held in custody for fear they may attempt to flee through the internationally unrecognised Turkish-run enclave of northern Cyprus. Both Turkey and Syria are only short boat rides away.

According to court documents, Metsos was the go-between for a network of agents across the US. He is accused of receiving money from a Russian agent, which he then allegedly buried in a park in northern Virginia for the other spies to retrieve.

The strategic Mediterranean island has long been considered a staging post for spies. The US and Russian embassies stand only metres apart in the capital, Nicosia. Topped with satellite dishes and listening devices, both spend an inordinate amount of time trying to track each other.

Cyprus has a flourishing Russian community, with Russian advertisements, media and shops selling Russian goods in abundance. Unlike any other EU state, the Cypriot government is also headed by a communist party, Akel, that has strong ties to Moscow.

Meanwhile, the British connections of another alleged Russian spy, Anna Chapman, strengthened when Barclays Bank confirmed she had worked in its London office.

Barclays had earlier denied knowledge of Chapman, who is accused by the FBI along with 10 others of being part of a "deep cover" spy ring operating since the 1990s.

But after a more extensive search by the bank, a spokesman confirmed to the Guardian that an Anna Chapman did work in its small business banking division between 2004 and 2005.

Another British-based company, the private plane hire firm NetJets Europe, confirmed that she worked in the UK, but not for as long or at such a senior level as claimed on her online CV profile on LinkedIn.

Chapman and the nine others arrested in the US have been charged with failing to register as foreign agents, a crime that is less serious than espionage, and which carries a sentence of up to five years in prison. Some also face money laundering charges.

The FBI moved in to break up the ring because one of the suspects was thought to have been on the point of leaving the country, bound for Moscow, according to court papers.

The arrests raised suggestions that Moscow has planted other couples in the US. Federal prosecutor Michael Farbiarz said the allegations are "the tip of the iceberg" of a conspiracy by Russia's intelligence service, the SVR.
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The arrests raised suggestions that Moscow has planted other couples in the US. Federal prosecutor Michael Farbiarz said the allegations are "the tip of the iceberg" of a conspiracy by Russia's intelligence service, the SVR.





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shout Rheo



That is so funny with that avatar. :D

Got er fixed.


Thanks again. The avatar does sort of fit doesn't it? :)

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