Probe ends of nuclear engineer charged with spying for Soviets
PARIS (AP) _ Top-secret nuclear documents stuffed in trash bags and left at telephone poles. Cigarette packs placed at traffic lights to signal the pickup.
The intriguing details of espionage tradecraft are turning up in one of France’s biggest spy case in decades. Court documents released Wednesday show how a top nuclear engineer allegedly sold secrets to the Soviets.
Francis Temperville is charged with treason for allegedly spying for the KGB between 1989 and 1990. Jailed since his arrest in 1992, he faces a possible 15-year prison sentence if convicted.
Investigators wrapped up their probe of Temperville, 39, this week. A trial date has not been set.
French authorities say the documents Temperville traded concerned the physical makeup of French thermonuclear weapons, techniques of reprocessing nuclear waste, and secret telegram codes used to track results from nuclear tests conducted in the South Pacific.
``The damage caused by Temperville’s actions is significant,″ a pretrial report said. ``It shined a light on French scientific potential ... and furnished the Russians with an element of appreciation for our mastery of the physics of weapons.″
Temperville allegedly spied for the Soviet Union while he was an engineer in the fusion department of the French Atomic Energy Commission’s military applications division.
Investigators claim he furnished two Soviet KGB spies with about 100 classified secret defense documents in exchange for more than $200,000.
Temperville, authorities allege, delivered the documents by stuffing them in trash bags filled with cigarette butts and other refuse and leaving them at the base of utility poles.
Later, his Soviet clients would signal the documents had been successfully picked up by placing a pack of Dunhill cigarettes at traffic lights or stop signs.
French police arrested Temperville in September 1992 after receiving information from Victor Otchenko, a former KGB colonel who defected to the West.
Authorities say Temperville has confessed that in 1987, while still a physics student, he was contacted by a Briton who called himself ``Serge″ and said he wanted to brush up on chemical physics.
In the documents released Wednesday, Serge was identified as Sergei Jmyrev, a KGB officer and second secretary of the former Soviet Embassy in Paris from 1986 to 1991. It was Jmyrev, authorities allege, who arranged for the Atomic Energy Commission to hire Temperville in October 1989.
As a neutron engineer at the commission’s center in Limeil-Brevannes east of Paris, Temperville had access to some of France’s most sensitive nuclear defense secrets, documents show.
Well-liked by his colleagues, Temperville nonetheless aroused their suspicion by asking about highly sensitive files and making photocopies of others. Numerous witnesses said he carried a sport bag stuffed with papers.
The documents allegedly obtained by Temperville gave the Kremlin a good idea of France’s nuclear capabilities at the time and may have aided in the trafficking of thermonuclear weapons, experts said in a report commissioned by investigating Judge Roger Le Loire.