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MI6 spy Tomlinson duped by the Russians?

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Ex-MI6 agent Richard Tomlinson may well have been duped by Russian intelligence in the publication of his book on Britain's secret services, The Big Breach.

Both Web sites that were used to promote his book - bigbreach.com and tomlinson.ru - are now pointing at a Russian music site at Zvuki.ru. The .com is owned by Sokolov-Khodakov in Moscow, the tomlinson.ru site is still registered as being used for the book and is owned by a Valentin K Pirogov.

Tomlinson worked for MI6 from 1991 to 1995. He was upset at being fired and was arrested after a race across continents in 1997 for breaking the Official Secrets Act. He was jailed for one year for giving a synopsis of a book on the secret services to an Australian publisher.

The book eventually came out at the start of this year with a Russian publisher. However, while many enjoyed it as a bit of a romp, large question marks were raised over a number of his assertions. Nelson Mandela was particularly incensed at the suggestion he had close ties with British intelligence.

Other stories in the book bore a striking resemblance to KGB archives - which were released later. Tomlinson did not have access to some material he purported to know about it. Also, the book's publisher Sergei Korovin is actually Russian intelligence agent Kirill Chashchin, according to author of The Mitrokhin Archive Christopher Andrew. Read Andrew's interesting piece for The Times here.

The book's publication was a publicity coup for the Russians and when so many became available in Moscow, the UK government was forced to back down on its gagging order and national newspapers published extracts.

The government got its own back though. Tomlinson claims it tried to set him up by making it look as though he posted a list of MI6 agents on the Internet, but this hasn't been proved either way. What it did do was get an injunction that prevented Tomlinson from ever receiving money from the book.

The Foreign Office claimed Mr Tomlinson signed an agreement in 1997 assigning copyright over "any work written by me and relating to my employment by the Crown in SIS (the Secret Intelligence Service)". His claim he signed the form under duress was rejected.

Tomlinson now lives in Italy. ®

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