A Czechoslovak spy sent to Britain to ferret out U.S. “Star Wars” secrets and to infiltrate Soviet emigre groups was sentenced to prison for 10 years Friday.
The 44-year-old man told British security agents who caught him receiving coded radio messages at his London home that he was Dutch-born art dealer Erwin van Haarlem.
But after a five-day trial laced with tales of intrigue, conspiracy and false identity, Judge Simon Brown told the slim, dark-haired man: “I address you by the name Van Haarlem, although I am convinced it was not yours by birth.
“I have not the least doubt that you are a dedicated, disciplined and resourceful spy, and I have equally no doubt that had you not been caught you would in future years have done whatever your Czech controllers required you to do, however harmful that might have been to our national interest.”
The prosecution said Van Haarlem was ordered by Czechoslovak intelligence to supply the names of British firms involved in the U.S. “Star Wars” project to develop space-based anti-missile defenses.
He infiltrated Soviet Jewish and other East European emigre groups, sending information back to Prague in magazines inscribed with invisible ink. He even dined in Parliament on one occasion at a dinner attended by senior industrialists and defense officials.
Van Haarlem denied the charges. Police who raided his house also found coding equipment, radio instructions and details of “dead letter drops"--secret points where documents are left for other agents.