Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Raleigh Spy Conference highlights John Symonds case

In March 2009 the 6th annual Raleigh International Spy Conference was held, and the key note speaker was Nigel West.

Nigel concentrated much of his talk on the story of John's life, and he referred to John as the “World’s Greatest Spy”. Such accolades are for others to give, because John could not possibly comment. Please go and see what Nigel West says here.

We quote below what Nigel has said about John. We object to the use of the word “corrupt”, but we shall be saying more about that in our later blogs. Here for now is what was said about John after the conference:

Nigel West at the Raleigh International Spy Conference


In his incredible narrative of the story of a corrupt British detective turned KGB operative, West said that John Symonds may be been one of the greatest spy stories ever seen in the history of spying.

In his research for a book he is working on to tell the story, West said the case is especially unique given that Symonds' orders were to travel the world to seduce the wives and daughters of CIA agents in order to glean information.

"It is one of the most astonishing cases I have ever seen," said West, who added that in his line of work he has seen a lot of spy cases.

West said that Symonds originally started out as a British police officer who joined the so-called "Dirty Squad" in the London Police Department. The unit was basically a vice unit that was in charge of monitoring obscene publications, sex shops, prostitution, etc.

West said that there were problems with accepting bribes and payoffs within the unit, where some members were essentially running a protection racket.

"In effect, the Dirty Squad was licensing [some of these shops]," said West.

In addition to graft, there were also problems with some of the tactics used to get information that were less than lawful.

In his speech, West related one technique where informants were "recruited" by throwing a stick of dynamite at them. After they caught the stick of dynamite, the detective would tell the informant that now their fingerprints were on the dynamite and if they didn't cooperate, it would be found at the scene of a crime.

West called it "noble cause corruption" as police officers used questionable tactics to enforce the law.

However, West said that a "newspaper was able to entrap [Symonds] doing this" and he awaiting trial when he decided to flee on a false passport to Morocco.

While in Morocco, West says that Symonds did some mercenary work but eventually came down with malaria. While he was recuperating, he decided to write an account of his experiences as a police detective -- including detailed accounts of graft and corruption. In his manuscript, West said that Simons listed names, dates, and more.

Somehow news of Symonds' manuscript leaked out and he was paid a visit by a man claiming to be a publisher's agent interested in turning his manuscript into a book. However, West said that the man was actually a KGB agent.

Eventually, the publishing agent's true identity became known and he asked Simons if he would make a hit on a Soviet defector in London named Oleg Lianov, but Symonds refused, saying that he was a mercenary and a corrupt police officer, but not an assassin.

"John Symonds drew the line at that," said West.

However, Symonds did tell the KGB the name of a London police officer who was assigned special protective duty to Lianov, so he started to gain the trust of the Soviet agency and was asked to come to Bulgaria, where he could further recuperate from his malaria.

While in Bulgaria, the good-looking and athletic Symonds met a German woman on the beach and found out that she worked high up in the West German government. The woman revealed that they were about to arrest a mole in the German government who had been passing secrets to the Russians.

Although the mole did not leave Germany in time, Simons related that information to the KGB, furthering his relationship with them.

"This demonstrated to the KGB that he was a willing, pliable individual," said West.

In an incredible twist of events, the KGB took advantage of Symonds' natural good looks and appealing British accent and offered him a job of seducing the wives and daughters of Central Intelligence Agency agents around the world, said West.

West joked that as the British are not known for their romantic skills in the bedroom or "rumpy pumpy" as he called it, Symonds initially said that he was not well skilled in that area.

However, the ever resourceful KGB produced two top Moscow hookers who were experienced in "honeytrap operations" to educate Symonds in the ways of love for several weeks.

"These girls taught Paul Symonds everything he needed to know," said West with a wry smile. "They taught John these very extraordinary skills...these two hookers explained everything."

"He became one of the world's great lovers," claimed West.


West said that the KGB sent Symonds around the world on an unusual mission -- to target the wives and daughters of suspected American CIA officers abroad. While seducing them, he would pump them (literally) for information.

"His task was to pleasure the ladies and to make sure they had a really good time," said West. "He really was one of the most extraordinary spies of all time."

During the next eight years, Symonds traveled to different countries around the world including Australia, India, Africa, Japan, and other locations gaining information on American CIA operations and sending the information back to the KGB.

"After eight years, John was absolutely exhausted," said West, who said that he felt that he could perhaps broker a deal to return to Great Britain, especially since he claimed that he had never worked against British interests directly.

Symonds returned to his home country and went to the MI6 secret intelligence agency in the UK and tried to make a deal to turn over information on the KGB as well as all of his information on corrupt police officers in the London Police Department units.

Symonds' story was so incredible and they did not believe him, said West. MI6 conferred with Scotland Yard, which said that they did not believe the stories of corruption, much less his story of working for the KGB. The British government dismissed it all as "fantasy" said West, and rejected his offer.

Instead, they arrested Symonds on his original corruption charges and put him in jail for three years, where West said that Symonds fared badly, as he was among some of the people he had helped put away while workin as an officer.


However, in 1999, after being out of jail for several years, West said that Symonds' life was "absolutely transformed" when a KGB defector brought copies of documents about some of their operations with him to the west, when he defected.

In those documents, Symonds' work was confirmed.

"To their amazement...the top British spy...was a former corrupt British police officer," said West. Further details revealed that was indeed Symonds, who was codenamed "Scott" by the KGB.

"Symonds' life started again in 1999 when he was vindicated," said West.

As a result, Symonds' original accusations of corruption in the London police units were believed as was his KGB connections, said West.

Symonds had never been interviewed by the British intelligence units and they finally got around to gathering information from him about his previous work including some "really pretty lurid stuff" about the sex acts used to seduce his targets, said West. Symonds was given immunity in exchange for details on those operations.

West said that while Symonds is hardly a hero, as although he may not have "exactly betrayed his country, but [did betray] western interests," his story is an interesting one.

"John Symonds is a remarkable man," said West about the former British detective's exploits. West said that Symonds is now in his 70's and was suffering from some health problems, but he hoped to convince Bernie Reeves, the Spy Conference organizer, to invite him to speak next year.

West said he is working on some other book projects in addition to the John Symonds story.

1 comment:

  1. There was a great little story about John Symonds in the Hackney Gazette a few years ago.

    It seems regulars in his local pub had followed one of the news stories about him, and in the words of the landlady - were not very bothered about it all, but were a little shocked to know he had been in the police!