Diplomatic Briefing

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Archive for April 22, 2012

Newsline: Dutch diplomat arrested for spying in HK

A controversial diplomat has been arrested on suspicion of spying for Russia during his four-year stint at the Dutch consulate in Hong Kong. Raymond Poeteray, who made headlines in 2007 for abandoning his adopted South Korean daughter to the care of local welfare staff, is said to have passed secrets to a German couple linked to US-based Russian agent Anna Chapman. Poeteray also face claims of money laundering in casinos, running telephone scams and illegally owning a gun. Although Poeteray, vice-consul in Hong Kong between 2004 and 2008, has not been identified as the Dutch foreign service employee arrested on espionage charges last month, his son confirmed his identity to a newspaper in the Netherlands and two sources have also independently told the Postthat he had been arrested. According to the Dutch Public Prosecution Office, the arrested diplomat appeared on the Dutch authorities’ radar earlier this year after the arrest in Germany of Andreas and Heidrun Anschlag, from Marburg, southern Germany. He is said to have passed classified information to the German couple in return for a monthly payment. Earlier this month, he appeared at a closed pre-trial hearing in the Netherlands, and prosecutors have been given 90 days to investigate further and decide whether to bring charges. “The judge decided that the defendant needs to remain in custody for 90 more days, based on all accounts: bribery, passing on classified information to the couple in Germany … making preparations to spread state secrets, money laundering and possession of a firearm,” a spokesman for the Dutch public prosecutor said. The couple are said to have sent encrypted radio messages to the SVR – the successor to the KGB – for 23 years, and maintained close contact with Chapman, the flame-haired sleeper agent who became a media celebrity in Russia after her deportation from the US in 2010. It remains unclear how Poeteray came into contact with the Anschlags, but he is said to have started his illegal activity seven years ago – during his time in Hong Kong. Dutch media reports suggest that Poeteray had large debts.



Newsline: Australia’s embassy flouts French unions and faces court

It is one of the most sought-after diplomatic postings, but Australia’s embassy in Paris has been a hotbed of industrial disputes including claims of unfair dismissal, harassment and union bashing. The saga, involving three former embassy staff who are French, is being played out in that country’s industrial relations court. An investigation by The Sun-Herald into the embassy, picturesquely located next to the Eiffel Tower, has revealed a long-running legal stoush with former workers. Documents obtained under freedom-of-information laws show the Australian government is being sued for a raft of claims, including unfair dismissal, unpaid pension payments and damages related to a medical disability caused by unsafe working conditions. Allegations of harassment have also been made against a former senior embassy official. The former employees will be represented by France’s biggest trade union, the Confederation Francaise Democratique du Travail, when the matter returns to court in October. In the meantime, other French staff in the embassy have been forced onto non-union workplace agreements, imposed by the Australian government in the past 18 months, and have lost the right to be represented in negotiations by a French union. A Department of Foreign Affairs spokesman said it would not comment on legal action while the matter was before the French courts.


Newsline: British diplomat mugged in London, may go blind

A British diplomat was mugged in London, and may go blind as the result of his injuries. George Fergusson, 56, was assaulted and robbed of some cash in west London. He works for the Foreign Office and was about to become the governor of Bermuda, BBC News reported. “The victim made his own way to hospital. He had suffered facial injuries, including a serious injury which threatens the sight in his left eye,” police told the Associated Press. Doctors are now fighting to save Fergusson’s eyesight. Muggings have become more common in the United Kingdom. In January, the Daily Telegraph reported that robberies increased by four percent last year, while incidences of personal crimes such as violence and theft made their largest increase in at least a decade.