Revealed: The John le Carré-loving Bank of England man who exposed a Communist spy ring in New York
- David Beers, now 68, became the prized quarry of Czech secret service agents
- He was working for the Bankers Trust company in New York during the 1980s
- The Communist state’s StB spy agency believed it had recruited him as a source
- They were unaware he double-crossed them and helped expose them as spies
As a young economist on his way to high office at the Bank of England, David Beers would relax by reading the novels of John le Carré.
But the rising star of finance was plunged into a real-life tale of espionage when the then 27-year-old was targeted by Czech secret police as a potential spy while working in New York.
The extraordinary story of how a special adviser to former Bank of England governor Mark Carney operated as a ‘double agent’ to expose Communist spies during the Cold War can today be revealed.
The rising star of finance was plunged into a real-life tale of espionage when the then 27-year-old was targeted by Czech secret police as a potential spy while working in New York
Documents uncovered in a Prague archive by The Mail on Sunday reveal that Mr Beers, now 68, became the prized quarry of Czech secret service agents when he was working for the Bankers Trust company in New York during the 1980s.
The files, hidden for almost 40 years, detail how the Communist state’s StB spy agency believed it had recruited him as a source and held 25 meetings with him over four years.
‘No signs of contact being detected by enemy counter-intelligence service, and no signs of a potential halt to collaboration,’ one StB agent noted in a report following a meeting with Mr Beers.
But the Czech secret agents posing as diplomats at the UN in New York were unaware that Mr Beers, inspired by le Carré, was double-crossing them and helping expose their status as foreign spies.
He was invited by a Czech agent to the Smith & Wollensky restaurant. The files, hidden for almost 40 years, detail how the Communist state’s StB spy agency believed it had recruited him as a source and held 25 meetings with him over four years
Having alerted the FBI in early 1983, he was holding follow-up meetings to brief the US agency.
Last night, the dual British-US citizen, who spent seven years at the Bank of England before retiring last year, said: ‘I assumed it all along [that they were working as spies]. They all pretended they were economists but it was obvious they were not.
‘I was glad that, as a teenager, I had read John le Carré because in this shadowy fraternity of spies [in his books] there were people not unlike the people I was dealing with. I thought it was in my interest to approach the FBI because I certainly didn’t want them to view me as a suspect.’
At a meeting in August 1983, Mr Beers’s handler Captain Jaromir Rada took him to the Smith & Wollensky steakhouse restaurant where he was quizzed on his personal life in a ‘non-forceful way’.
An assessment by the Czechs in October 1983 described Mr Beers, codenamed ‘Boar’, as ‘an intelligence asset [that] has been developed through direct contact with employees of Czechoslovak intelligence… the results obtained during development indicate that Boar is interested in cooperation’.
A profile of Mr Beers, compiled by a Lieutenant Pavel Zavrel, said: ‘Boar lives a youthful life, which undoubtedly has an impact on his life management. It is believed he has certain problems with his stomach. Nonetheless, he likes spicy Japanese and Chinese food and likes to eat. He drinks alcohol in moderation, usually beer.’
‘Boar’ was categorised as a ‘duverny styk’, the second highest rank of contact behind full agent, and was providing the spies with what they thought was useful economic intelligence.
In February 1984, they claimed Mr Beers had handed over a Bankers Trust ‘internal study’ of US banks’ transactions that he had told them was ‘partly confidential’ – an assertion that he denies.
‘I never gave them any confidential documents from Bankers Trust or any other source,’ he said. ‘I think they made this claim to impress their bosses in Prague.’
After his meeting with the Czech agents, usually in Chinese or Japanese restaurants, he would call his FBI handlers who would then visit him at his eighth-floor New York apartment for a debriefing.
Two agents, led by a woman in her 30s who gave her name as ‘Susan Springle’, would quiz him.
Astonishingly, even though the Czechs kept Beers’ apartment under surveillance, their agents remained unaware they were being duped. During this period there was a wave of expulsions of spies posing as Warsaw Pact diplomats in the US, and Karel Koecher, a Czech agent in New York, was even exposed as having infiltrated the CIA in 1984.
‘My sense is that the Czechs saw me as a ‘sleeper cell’ contact, a person potentially useful to them but one who they hadn’t yet figured out if, when or how to deploy’, said Mr Beers.
‘Most of the meetings [with the FBI] happened in my apartment. There were at least two of them present. The ‘Ms Springle’ was always there and would lead the conversation. They confirmed my view early on that the agents I was dealing with were spies.’
He added: ‘By 1985, the FBI floated this idea they would prepare a so-called confidential document that I could give Miroslav [one of the StB agents] and it would be a sting operation. They would arrest him and expel him.
‘They asked if I had any feelings for these people. I said, ‘No, I’m not going to shed any tears if you expel them from the country.’ ‘
Mr Beers, a former head of international public finance ratings at S&P Global, now lives in Sussex. His career as a double-agent ended when a new job opportunity arose.
‘I approached the FBI and they agreed. I moved to Brooklyn then and never spoke to the FBI and the Czechs ever again.’
Documents uncovered by the MoS show that the Czech agents continued attempts to contact Mr Beers for a further year and his file was only finally archived in 1987.
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