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Germany Gets Spy Suspect Through Classified Ads

March 21, 1988

BONN, West Germany (AP) _ A woman who put a job-wanted ad in a newspaper was recruited as a communist spy and trained to photograph secret documents with a camera disguised as a cigarette lighter, officials said Monday.

The woman, arrested Friday in Bonn, hid film taken for her Soviet bloc spymasters in a specially constructed can of hairspray, prosecutors said.

She used at least 26 locations in Bonn to deliver documents and pick up instructions from other communist agents, they added.

Prosecutor Kurt Rebmann said investigators were assessing the damage to national security caused by Elke Falk, who worked in the West German chancellery from 1974 to 1977 and in other ministries later.

″The suspect delivered notes, copied documents and photographs from all of her professional duties to her intelligence contacts,″ Rebmann said.

Ms. Falk is being held in investigative custody awaiting formal charges, Rebmann said. Security officials have not identified the Soviet bloc intelligence agency for which she allegedly worked.

Ms. Falk was a secretary in the Economic Coooperation Ministry at the time of her arrest Friday, hours after officials disclosed the defection of a high East German transport official who apparently led authorities to her.

She was the chief secretary to Volkmar Koehler, No. 2 man in the Economic Cooperation Ministry, until 1987 and later moved to the ministry’s European section, officials reported.

Ministry spokesman Manfred Oblaender said Ms. Falk had access to ″very confidential and secret documents″ provided to the ministry by West German intelligence agencies.

Rebmann told reporters Ms. Falk was recruited by a man using the name Gerhard Thieme after she placed an advertisement in a newspaper looking for work. On Sunday, the mass-circulation newspaper Bild reported that Ms. Falk began syping after Thieme seduced her.

In its Monday editions, Bild said Ms. Falk had access to top-secret military and defense documents while working at the chancellery.

Quoting security sources it did not identify, Bild said she also had access to transcipts of meetings between former Chancellor Helmut Schmidt and foreign leaders, including former Presidents Jimmy Carter and Gerald R. Ford.

According to Rebmann, communist agents warned Ms. Falk in 1985 that she might be exposed. She told West German authorities she stopped spying at that time and destroyed her equipment, but ignored urgings by communist contacts to flee to the East, he said.

He said Ms. Falk was paid about $11,760 for the information she delivered.

Bild quoted the security sources as saying Ms. Falk’s activities represented the most serious security breach since the arrest of Guenther Guillaume, a top aide to former Chancellor Willy Brandt.

Brandt was forced to resign as chancellor in 1974 after Guillaume was exposed as a spy.

In the last major West German spy scandal, 15 communist agents were arrested or disappeared between August and December 1985. Among them was Hans- Joachim Tiedge, the man in charge of catching East German spies, who fled to East Germany.