Wednesday 16 January 2019

BBC's John Simpson targeted by Czech spies in honeytrap

'VULNERABLE’: John Simpson
'VULNERABLE’: John Simpson

Nicola Harley

The BBC's world affairs editor John Simpson has revealed how he was targeted by a Czech spy in a honeytrap.

John Simpson said he was targeted by a woman who sent him saucy photos and love letters in the early 1980s.

He said he was feeling "vulnerable" after the breakdown of his marriage when he received romantic notes from a woman he met in the Communist Czechoslovak regime.

The journalist realised he was "getting in a bit deep" so went to his employers, who summoned MI5.

Simpson had been allowed into the closed communist state to cover an international conference in 1983.

Speaking on BBC Radio, he said: "A few months later, a letter arrived, a love letter from a particularly attractive receptionist at the hotel where I had stayed.

"I told myself I'd play along with it. OK, OK, I know that was stupid but my marriage was just breaking up and I felt a bit vulnerable. Anyway, the letters kept on coming and one of them contained photos of the girl, glamorous photos.

"'I'm sorry these aren't very good', she wrote, 'but I took them myself at home'.

"The trouble was you could see the outline of a photographer in one of them. I was getting in a bit deep here so I told the BBC, who in turn told MI5."

It was at this point the British secret service revealed that he had been preyed on by a honeytrap.

"A man in a suit came round to see me and explained it all. I'd never heard the expression honeytrap before," he added.

Simpson said the woman, known as Anna, had suggested meeting up in Hungary.

The MI5 officer told the journalist that if he had met the woman, a man claiming to be her husband would burst into the hotel room and there would be a fight.

Simpson would then have been detained and told he would only be released if he "signed some statements".

In 1989, he returned to the hotel and Anna was on reception. When he said hello to her, "she gave a little squeal and ran into the back office".

Mr Simpson told the story after days of headlines in the UK about alleged links between Jeremy Corbyn and a former Czech spy.

Jan Sarkocy, the former Czechoslovak spy, described Corbyn and others as "great sources" to himself.

Corbyn admits meeting Sarkocy on a small number of occasions, but vigorously denies supplying information to a foreign power. It is not known what information he could have supplied.

Classified documents released by the Czech government revealed that the spy met Corbyn three times.


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