Russian 'spy': Foreigners who worked for the MP
Investigations editor Jason Lewis explores the background of the foreign aides hired by the MP at the centre of the spy storm
The company never filed accounts and was wound up in 2006, but Mr Huma continued working as an “international trade adviser” and “political consultant”, dividing his time between Britain and Romania.
In November 2004, he and Mr Hancock were photographed in Constanta, Romania, where, according to newspaper reports, the MP was leading a delegation from the Council of Europe and Mr Huma was representing a company supplying computer software for railways.
Mr Huma now runs a series of firms specialising in political advice, representation and lobbying; and in supplying military equipment, nuclear, biological and chemical protection hardware, and the “management of weapon platforms”.
One of his companies sells civilian and military helicopters, and another supplies “technical support and spares for the Romanian navy’s Type 22 frigates”. The ships that were purchased as surplus from the Royal Navy for £116 million in 2003 were later the subject of corruption claims investigated by the Serious Fraud Office in BAE, the UK arms manufacturer at the centre of the deal. BAE admitted two criminal charges and paid £286 million in fines to resolve the investigation but denied bribery and its settlement with the UK and US prosecutors did not include any admission of corrupt payments.
IDS Operations, based in Eastleigh, Hampshire, organises an English course in Romania for staff at the Mihail Koga˘lniceanu Air Base, which is alleged to be one of the sites involved in the CIA’s network of “extraordinary renditions”. The base was alleged to have been used by aircraft identified as belonging to the CIA’s fleet of rendition planes.
And a fax, reportedly intercepted by Swiss intelligence and allegedly sent by a senior Egyptian official, also said the base was used by the US to detain at least 23 Iraqi and Afghan captives. It was said to be one of a number of European secret prisons located in Poland, Ukraine, Kosovo, Macedonia and Bulgaria – known as “black sites” – where prisoners were taken for interrogation.
Companies House reveals little detail about Mr Huma’s businesses. His holding company, INDES Group, shows no income; another firm, HMS Investments, reported a turnover of £158,128 last year, while INDES Limited shows it had made a £168,693 loss. Mr Huma and his wife Claudia, live in a modest house brought for £179,000 in 2003.
Last night, Mr Huma said he remembered fondly his time working for Mr Hancock. He said: “My time was very limited. I was just helping with clerical activities and letters to constituents. After I left university, I was deeply involved in work and lost the connection with Mr Hancock.
“I got my job because I was interested in politics. I applied for work experience. I never got paid. It was a simple process.”
Asked about Mr Hancock’s current researcher’s problems, he said: “I haven’t spoken to him since the general election, so I don’t know how he is taking all of this. I should make it clear that [in my time] I was never in front of any interesting or any sensitive information. I don’t know whether she [Ekaterina Zatuliveter] would have been in that position. I don’t think MPs have direct access to sensitive information. I don’t think as a researcher you would get access to very much.
“There were very precise procedures in the House on how you deal with papers, so I don’t think anyone would be able to get access to such information. I certainly didn’t.”
Asked about his trip to Romania with Mr Hancock in 2004, Mr Huma initially said he could not remember it. But told there was a photograph of the two of them together, he said: “What I can tell you is that, at some point, I was in Romania, and Mr Hancock was [there] working for various European bodies. The circumstances when we have been together were always official.”
Today, he said, his companies specialise in helping UK firms win business in Romania. He also confirmed his role supplying staff to the controversial Mihail Koga˘lniceanu Airport, but said he had no idea if it had been used for CIA flights.
He added that his firm helped train local staff who did “key but low-level” service jobs at the base, but said all “needed to speak English” in order to work there. He said he had heard “no gossip” about its role and added: “What happens inside is nothing to do with me.”
Regarding Mr Hancock, he added: “He was always a beacon of morality in a world which is crazy. I have met him only on very official circumstances surrounded by many people. I wish I would have had the honour to work closer with him.”
Others who have worked for Mr Hancock at the Commons include Bethany Torvell, who worked alongside Ekaterina Zatuliveter earlier this year. She is now a visiting tutor at Goldsmiths College and runs The Phoenix Think Tank, which specialises in defence industry analysis.
Greek-born international relations graduate Marianna Ventouratou worked for the MP until 2003, before going to work for the Centre for Economic Policy in London and at the department of international development at Oxford University.
She is now living in York with her university lecturer husband and two children. Last night she said: “I have a very positive impression of my months at the House of Commons and of Mike Hancock. I was very 'fresh’ in the UK, so I was just getting my head around things. I did find Mike Hancock very open-minded for hiring a foreign intern.”
A Serbian-born researcher Nevena Marjanovic worked for Mr Hancock in 2008 and 2009, again alongside Ms Zatuliveter, followed by Greek graduate Christina Kaiseroglou, who had been a trainee at the European Security and Defence Assembly, and Myriam Chieb-Bouares, who now works at the Carbon Trust encouraging businesses and governments to reduce carbon omissions.
Last week, well-placed sources told The Sunday Telegraph it was feared that Ms Zatuliveter had been acting as a “talent-spotter” for the SRV, Russia’s foreign intelligence service.
It is understood that the MI5 investigation was sparked by a tip-off that the young Russian may have been compiling secret dossiers on British government officials that could be used by the Russians to blackmail them into supplying secrets.
Last night, Mr Hancock again dismissed any suggestion that Ms Zatuliveter had been doing anything wrong. He said: “These suggestions are all news to me. I don’t do Commons receptions and the like. That sort of thing is not my cup of tea at all. I don’t believe for one minute that she has done anything wrong. I only know what she has told me.
“All I know is that she could have gone home any time. They never took her passport away from her. They haven’t even taken her computer off her or her [mobile] telephone. All I understand is what she tells me. She said, 'What should I do?’ I said, 'Have you done anything wrong?’ She said, 'No, I haven’t.’ I said, 'OK, then, you have to see it through the system. The British system is a good one. It is not like yours [in Russia], and people are not treated in this way.’ And she accepted that. But this is the end result.”
He said he had visited her at the Yarl’s Wood detention centre, where she is being held. He said she was bearing up and was not unhappy about where she was being held.
But he added: “Nothing is OK when you have had your freedom denied.”
Asked about his relationship with Mr Huma, he added: “Calin and I have known each other for a long time. I have no connections with his business, I never have, and I’ve never had any money from him in any circumstances whatsoever. I have never done any professional work for him.”