Former British spy in Chinese influence investigation

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Former British spy is under investigation by British and Belgian intelligence agencies over alleged Chinese influence-buying operation, in latest sign of European fears over Beijing’s influence on the continent .

Fraser Cameron, who now heads the EU-Central Asia think tank in Brussels, was allegedly involved in selling sensitive information to Chinese spies – actions that posed a “clear threat to European institutions” based in the Belgian capital the country’s state security service said.

Mr Cameron had been a member of Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service, known as MI6, until the early 1990s, according to a person familiar with the investigation. He then worked for the European Commission, where he specialized in foreign policy and spent a stay in Washington. He retired from the commission in 2006 to pursue a career in think tanks and consulting.

Mr Cameron denied any wrongdoing and called the allegations “bizarre”.

The investigation into his alleged links to Chinese intelligence officials was carried out jointly by MI5, the UK’s spy agency, and the Belgian state security service. MI5 has now issued a “spy alert” to warn intelligence agencies and foreign governments that Mr. Cameron poses a potential security risk.

Although he is not accused of leaking classified information, a person familiar with the investigation said he raised concerns that the ex-spy had a “voluntary relationship” with members. Chinese intelligence services.

The Belgian state security service said the case should be “a clear signal that anyone involved in espionage in Brussels will sooner or later be on the intelligence services radar and will not be able to continue their activities in all impunity ”.

Mr Cameron was allegedly paid for information by two Chinese journalists accredited to Brussels who were also intelligence agents, according to people familiar with the investigation first reported in Belgian media and Politico. The Belgian-British investigation has been ongoing for several years, but it may be that the alleged behavior – even if it is proven – would not constitute a crime under the laws of either country.

The case comes as some European countries, under pressure from the United States, toughen their security policies towards China through actions such as reducing Huawei’s involvement in 5G mobile telecommunications networks. new generation.

Brussels has become a center of particular focus for European concerns about Chinese influence as it is home to the headquarters of the EU and the NATO military alliance.

Mr Cameron told the FT that the allegations were “ridiculous”, “absurd” and “without merit”. He denied being paid for information and said he only learned about the investigation when he started receiving questions about it from reporters this week.

“It’s a total surprise,” he said. “I did not have access to any secrets or confidential information.”

He added, “There is a bit of paranoia in China right now. ”

The Chinese EU mission and the European Commission did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The UK government has long come under pressure from intelligence agencies to toughen the Official Secrets Act and is expected to introduce a spy bill to give prosecutors more powerful powers against those passing information to hostile states. The Belgian security services also want to modernize the espionage laws first drafted in the 1930s.

Andrew Parker, who resigned earlier this year as managing director of MI5, was quoted in a parliamentary report this summer telling MPs that the Official Secrets Act, some of which dates back to World War I, had become ” dusty and largely ineffective ”and needed to be updated to reflect modern challenges such as combating influence operations.

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