Monday, April 29, 2013

Sweden drawn into spy web

Arrest warrant for Veláquez
U.S. authorities wrote to accused spy Marta Rita Velázquez in December 2011 to ask if she would be interested in settling the accusations against her, but she "declined the government's invitation to communicate," court records show.
That led the U.S. Attorney's Office on April 24 to ask a federal judge to unseal the 2004 indictment against Velázquez.
Royce C. Lamberth, chief judge in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, granted the motion on April 26, allowing the indictment to be disclosed.
The Feb. 5, 2004, indictment accuses Velázquez, 55, a former U.S. government employee, of a single count of conspiracy to commit espionage. The charge is punishable by up to life in prison or even death under certain circumstances - not that such a punishment would apply in Velázquez's case.
U.S. authorities issued an arrest warrant for Velázquez the day after she was charged, but the indictment was sealed so that she wouldn't find out about the accusations and evade capture.
At the time, Velázquez was living in Guatemala City with her husband, Anders Kviele, a Swedish diplomat. She had worked for the U.S. Agency for International Development in Guatemala, but quit that job before her indictment.
USAID had stationed her in Guatemala so she could be with Kviele. Since the indictment, prosecutors say, Velázquez has been with her husband on diplomatic missions in Europe and has avoided traveling to any areas that are within U.S. jurisdiction, court records show.
An Oct. 5, 2011, motion to modify the 2004 order sealing the indictment stated:
Defendant Velázquez has become a Swedish citizen, but has not renounced her United States citizenship. She has traveled on a Swedish passport with the privileges extended to families of diplomats.
An April 24, 2013, motion said Velázquez has been trying to avoid arrest for more than a decade.
Defendant Velázquez is well aware that she is subject to arrest if she places herself within the jurisdiction of the United States. She has studiously avoided doing so since at least 2002.
Some Swedish blogs are reporting that Velázquez:
  • Sought Swedish citizenship to make it more difficult for the U.S. government to extradite her.
  • Was denied citizenship in 2002 when she had been in Sweden for only a few months.
  • Was granted citizenship after the Swedish Foreign Ministry in January 2003 "more or less ordered" Sweden's Migration Board to grant citizenship.
The 2011 motion said Velázquez likely knew U.S. authorities sought her capture and was purposely trying to avoid capture. It stated:
To date, the United States has been unable to effect the arrest of defendant Velázquez. Since the time of the Indictment, defendant Velázquez has avoided placing herself within the reach of United States authorities and the government has reason to believe that this is purposeful. Defendant Velázquez is undoubtedly aware that her co-conspirator, convicted Cuban spy Ana Belen Montes, has cooperated with the United States and would have exposed defendant Velázquez’s role in the conspiracy, namely, that defendant Velázquez helped recruit Montes to serve as an agent of the Cuban Intelligence Service as alleged in the Indictment. 
There was, among other things, extensive media coverage of the prosecution of Montes dating to September 2001, which would have informed defendant Velázquez of Montes’s cooperation with the government. 
Given those facts, and the amount of time that has passed since the Indictment was returned, the government believes that it is in the interest of the United States to inform defendant Velázquez of the fact of her Indictment and the nature of the charge against her, and seek to meet with her counsel to seek her cooperation and/or a negotiated disposition of this matter. If defendant Velázquez declines the government’s invitation, the government will take additional steps that it deems necessary to resolve this matter including, if necessary, seeking leave to unseal the Indictment. 
Prior to contacting defendant Velázquez, the government will also need to notify the U.S. Department of State and the Government of Sweden that it is communicating with one of Sweden’s citizens regarding an indicted espionage matter. The government will instruct representatives of the Department of State and the Government of Sweden not to publicly disseminate the fact of the Indictment or the nature of the charge against defendant Velázquez.
Court records show that U.S. District Judge James Robertson on Dec. 17, 2008, granted a motion allowing the government to disclose the sealed indictment to the FBI and to the "United States intelligence community for the purpose of collecting evidence in a related investigation."
It seems plausible that authorities might have showed some lenience toward Velázquez if she had cooperated and assisted with any U.S. investigations into Cuba-related espionage.
Instead it appears she has avoided capture, possibly with the help of her diplomat husband, and now faces dire legal consequences.
The indictment accuses Veláquez of violating the espionage statutes of U.S. Code, specifically, sections (a) and (c) of 18 USC § 794 - Gathering or delivering defense information to aid foreign government.
Sections (a) and (c) is described as follows:
  • (a) Whoever, with intent or reason to believe that it is to be used to the injury of the United States or to the advantage of a foreign nation, communicates, delivers, or transmits, or attempts to communicate, deliver, or transmit, to any foreign government, or to any faction or party or military or naval force within a foreign country, whether recognized or unrecognized by the United States, or to any representative, officer, agent, employee, subject, or citizen thereof, either directly or indirectly, any document, writing, code book, signal book, sketch, photograph, photographic negative, blueprint, plan, map, model, note, instrument, appliance, or information relating to the national defense, shall be punished by death or by imprisonment for any term of years or for life, except that the sentence of death shall not be imposed unless the jury or, if there is no jury, the court, further finds that the offense resulted in the identification by a foreign power (as defined in section 101(a) of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978) of an individual acting as an agent of the United States and consequently in the death of that individual, or directly concerned nuclear weaponry, military spacecraft or satellites, early warning systems, or other means of defense or retaliation against large-scale attack; war plans; communications intelligence or cryptographic information; or any other major weapons system or major element of defense strategy.
  • (c) If two or more persons conspire to violate this section, and one or more of such persons do any act to effect the object of the conspiracy, each of the parties to such conspiracy shall be subject to the punishment provided for the offense which is the object of such conspiracy.
The prosecutors who requested that the indictment be made public this month are:
  • Gordon Michael Harvey, of the National Security Section of the U.S. Attorney's Office,
  • Laura A. Ingersoll, of the U.S. Attorney's Office.

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