Security Service release: Soviet intelligence agents and suspected agents
Alexandru Ionescu (KV 2/2966-2967) 1945-1959
The case of Alexandru Ionescu throws some light on the Security Service's identification of possible double agents to use against the Russians in the immediate post-war period, and is also an intriguing human interest story. Ionescu had been a highly regarded Romanian civil pilot during the war. He was approached by the NKVD to spy on Britain when he flew the Romanian delegation to the 1945 Youth Congress to London.
The story unfolds in KV 2/2966 (1945-1956), and shows that his presence was first brought to the attention of the Security Service by Colonel de Chastelaine, who had met Ionescu in Romania when he worked there for SOE during the war. Ionescu had met de Chastelaine again in 1945 and sought his help to arrange his defection to the West. Ionescu's interrogation report is at serial 5b. The file goes on in some detail to discuss plans, never carried out, to use Ionescu as a double agent to feed information back to the NKVD (for example at serial 8a). Ionescu returned to Romania at the end of the Congress, and no more was heard from him until 1947, when he re-emerged in Switzerland, where he had landed a faulty plane, applying for asylum in the United Kingdom. He was permitted to return to the UK in December 1947. As a known contact of the NKVD he was of obvious interest to the Security Service, but it appears he was not closely watched, and was able to establish himself as an engineer in Colliers Wood, south-west London. Obviously compromised, there was no further consideration of using him as a double-agent.
The second file, KV 2/2967 (1956-1959) covers Ionescu's eventual return to Romania. A friend of his living in Mitcham, Mr Fred Donovan, complained to the Home Office in 1956 that Ionescu had 'alienated his wife's affections and asked for help in removing Ionescu from this country' (serial 45a). A copy of Donovan's letter of 21 August 1956 is at serial 55a. Unsurprisingly, the Home Secretary declined to take up the case, but for Donovan matters came to an unpleasant end in December 1958 when Ionescu and Mrs Eunice Donovan, plus her two adopted children, left Britain for Romania. The file closes with a brief account of a phone call made by a distressed Mrs Donovan to her husband two weeks after her arrival in Bucharest, stating that she wished to return home. This file includes photographs of Ionescu and a copy of his aliens registration card.
Soviet intelligence in Shanghai (KV 2/2962-2965) 1934-1957
This release includes a number of files covering the activities of various Soviet agents in Shanghai, which throw an interesting light on activities in what was then a hotbed of international intrigue and espionage. They include the files on: Leon Minster (KV 2/2962, 1934-1954), a Russian-American who in the 1930s worked under the cover of managing a radio shop, Maxim Rivosh (KV 2/2963-2964, 1935-1957), a Latvian Comintern agent sentenced to 15 years imprisonment by the Chinese for espionage, and Brian Naidis (KV 2/2965, 1935-1955), a Dutch-Russian and one of three individuals involved in a failed attempt to spring Rivosh from prison, himself imprisoned for his part in the plot.
A further file is released relating to Shanghai, that of Eric Halpern (KV 2/2995, 1946-1952). Not suspected of being a Communist, he was a journalist working out of Shanghai, who in 1946 offered his services to British intelligence, claiming to have intelligence contacts in other governments. He is described as 'almost certainly a professional informant'.