Miss Widdecombe was quoted in the Guardian: '... the decision not to prosecute was roundly attacked by Ann Widdecombe, the shadow home secretary, who accused Mr Straw of "playing Santa Claus to Soviet spies". The decision was utterly feeble, she said.'
John was then surprised to find himself being attacked by someone claiming to represent the KGB. See attachment below:
Romeo spy was 'just trouble'
Jonathan Steele - 19 September 1999
John Symonds, the former British policeman described as Moscow's 'Romeo spy' in the revelations of KGB defector Vasily Mitrokhin published last week, turned out to be far more trouble than he was worth, according to his main Moscow 'handler'.
In an exclusive interview with The Observer, KGB Colonel Igor Prelin explained how the tall, dark stranger who walked into the Soviet embassy in Morocco offering his services ended up making only two contacts of any value to the Soviet Union but cost it a lot in hotel bills, fancy clothes and entertainment.
Far from the James Bond image of a powerful agency running a worldwide stable of studs tasked to seduce important Western women and extract secrets about their, or their husbands', jobs, he painted a picture of the KGB's Romeo operation as a bumbling outfit which had little success. His account tends to confirm the new view that agents in both the Western and Eastern camps hugely over-inflated their importance at the time, in order to deceive those who employed them.
Symonds was a 'walk-in' rather than a recruit, Prelin said. 'He had a Canadian passport in the name of Freeman and said he was a former Scotland Yard policeman who had uncovered corruption and was forced to flee. He thought the Soviet Union would be the safest place. 'He couldn't prove what he was saying and we were suspicious initially. Of course he was intrinsically interesting, handsome, and professionally qualified for operational matters, as we say,' Prelin added. The KGB flew him to Moscow where they checked his behaviour in case he was a Western plant. He was given a job as an editor in the English-language section of the Novosti Press Agency.
They began to trust him only after he had revealed the whereabouts of Oleg Lyalin, a key Soviet defector, whose disclosures of scores of Soviet diplomats and journalists in Britain who were allegedly KGB spies led the Heath Government to expel more than 100 Russians.
Having decided Symonds could be trusted, 'we had to think how to use him,' said Prelin, who had returned from a stint in Africa and was working in Department K, the KGB's counter-intelligence section. They did not think he was up to being sent abroad to get a job in an organisation with secret or sensitive information, and operate as a spy in his own right. 'We offered him to the Department Spetz for special operations, but he was rejected. So the only idea that came into our heads was to use him with women. There were a lot of single women around in foreign embassies, and he might get something out of them. He quickly agreed. "Women are my weakness", he told us.'
Prelin, who retired from the KGB when Gorbachev broke it up after the failed coup of August 1991, denied Symonds' story that he was trained in sex by Soviet girls working for the KGB. 'We did get one of our girls to approach him and check him out but it was in order to find out what he thought and what he would tell her. To avoid him getting suspicious she took along a girlfriend who was not one of our agents. He simply invited them both and the three of them slept together.'
Symonds' first job was to woo someone at the British Club in Moscow. He found a woman who worked at the embassy and was soon sleeping with her but she knew little and Symonds dropped her. He hated life in Moscow so the KGB sent him to Tanzania where he worked as deputy manager of a national park. Then he fell ill and was flown back to Moscow.
In Bulgaria, he had better luck. Moscow was keen to know what its Communist leadership really thought. 'John became the lover of the wife of a top party member, and gave us a lot about the state of the leadership,' Prelin says.
But his greatest coup came when he slept with a West German tourist holidaying at the Black Sea resort of Golden Beach. She was the wife of a senior figure in the Social Democratic Party in West Berlin and told Symonds there were suspicions a Communist agent was working in the entourage of Willy Brandt, the West German Chancellor.
Prelin's boss in the counter-intelligence department was Oleg Kalugin, who later broke with the KGB and now lives in the United States. Prelin informed him of the news. 'We checked if it was one of our people, but we had no one so well-placed. It must be an East German agent, we thought, so we told the East Germans about the suspicions surrounding their man. Three months later Günther Guillaume, Brandt's secretary, was arrested and unmasked,' Prelin said. 'So John's information wasn't used to help Guillaume.'
Prelin was sent to Senegal in 1975 under cover as the Soviet embassy's economic counsellor. A year later he heard Symonds was being sent to Benin to woo the secretary of the CIA resident chief. The KGB gave him cover as a Canadian businessman and Prelin frequently met Symonds. This time Symonds failed to bed the lady or get anything out of her. Soon afterwards, Symonds went back to Britain and his short career with the KGB was over.
'The problem with John,' says Prelin, 'was he was a good man and I liked him, but honestly we didn't know how to use him.
ROMEO'S RESPONSE: The whole of the above is absolute rubbish as we will prove in detail in our next blog. John only ever had one handler and it certainly wasn't Prelin, who was a new recruit in the local Second Directorate Moscow Branch of the internal KGB, and John met him briefly when he was delegated to help John purchase some suitable clothing for a trip into the British Embassy that night. Prelin pocketed a substantial sum of foreign currency (US Dollars) supplied to John for this purpose, rushed off, rushed back with an obvious Russian made suit over his arm, and then disappeared. John has photographs of this suit, which was much too small for him and obviously had been much used and worn by Prelin himself. John's choice was to wear the trousers with extended braces and the crotch at knee level, or wear the trousers with a belt around his waist showing 6 inches of his socks. That was bad enough, but worse was the strong armpit smell emanating from damp arm-pit pads sewn into the suit, which John was obliged to rip out and spray with after-shave lotion. Prelin now makes a living as a notorious con-man offering secret "KGB information" to foreign press men and investigators at a price. His speciality is to guarantee meetings with his good friend ex-Chairman of the KGB Vladimir Kryuchkov in return for an additional $2,000 cash in hand. Next day he will take the "mug" reporter to a park close to Kryuchkov's flat, and sure enough the elderly infirm and vacant-faced Kryuchkov will shuffle up and be introduced to the reporter, who will ask his questions which always gets the same reply - a blank look from the apparently senile old man, and the muttered words "I don't remember". There is no doubt that Prelin, apart from being a con-man, is also a fantasist and we repeat that the whole of the article above is complete rubbish, which should be immediately dismissed with contempt. Obviously Jonathan Steele was one of the many "mug" reporters who fell victim to this man's opportunism, but John Symonds was able to advise the television crew following up Jonathan Steele's story to avoid going to Moscow to interview Prelin on film, which would, of course, have included 'the introduction to Kryuchkov'.