The extraordinary case of Portuguese secret service agent Frederico Gil is back in the headlines today, a little over a year since he was allegedly “caught red-handed” selling NATO secrets to the Russians in a café in Rome (click here).
A statement from the Public Ministry has set out the accusations against Gil, currently under house arrest in Lisbon after a stint in Monsanto’s maximum security jail.
He is cited for espionage, violation of State secrets, active and passive corruption.
Says the statement, Gil is jointly accused with “a Russian citizen” (an alleged Russian intelligence) – freed last year by Italian judges on the basis that there were no grounds for extradition to Portugal to face spy charges – whose whereabouts is now “unknown”.
This is where the questions begin.
As the Resident revealed last year, Gil’s defence lawyer José Preto contends the whole story is “an aberration” (click here).
Preto claims his client’s only crime is having been caught brokering a deal for the sale of olive oil – something, he says agents from many countries have been quietly doing for years as a way of helping Russia around UN sanctions imposed as a result of the conflict in Ukraine.
This side of the story has never come out in mainstream media.
Instead, the ‘unmasking of Gil’ made it onto international news media suggesting the divorcé with a penchant for beautiful Russian women as well as a “life threatening heart condition” posed a serious threat to the safety of NATO ‘secrets’.
A year ago, US intelligence expert Robert D Schindler told the BBC (click here), that Gil’s alleged activities were viewed as being “deadly serious”.
Why then did an Italian court release Gil’s so-called contact in the Russian secret service, on the basis that there was no truth in the allegations?
When Gil’s arrest and extradition from Italy were splashed over national television screens, Portuguese security sources hailed his arrest as a “great victory for the Portuguese information services”, as “it is very difficult to accomplish these type of operations”.
Gil’s downfall resulted from intense covert ops at tracking, with stories alluding to his use of planes, trains and “every other means available to him” to lose anyone who might be on his tail.
Today, national media is suggesting Gil “will have been selling NATO secrets to the Russians since 2011”.
Tabloid Correio da Manhã claims €36,400 in notes of €100 and €50 were found in his Lisbon apartment, and that these were “payments from the Russians”.
When detained in Rome, Gil was in possession of €10,000 says the Public Ministry statement, suggesting this money had been paid for information supplied to the errant Russian secret agent.
Gil’s lawyer however says the money was nothing sinister and that this is a case of a “good man being victimised for the mere necessity of propaganda”.