French spy facing treason charges for allegedly passing secrets to Chinese lover

Former intelligence agent who fell for interpreter in Beijing on trial with fellow ex-operative

A layer of pollution hangs over Paris
(Image credit: Lionel Bonaventure/AFP/Getty Images)

Two former intelligence agents have gone on trial in Paris for allegedly passing on state secrets to China, according to reports.

The two men, known only as Henry M and Pierre-Marie H, are each facing 15 years in prison if convicted of charges of “delivering information to a foreign power” and “damaging the fundamental interests of the nation”, The Telegraph reports.

The former was the Beijing station chief for the General Directorate for External Security (DGSE), France’s equivalent to MI6, but “was dismissed from the intelligence service and sent home in 1997 after only a few months” for starting a relationship with the French ambassador’s Chinese interpreter, says The Times.

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Henry M, now 74, retired a few years later and returned to China in 2003, where he married the interpreter and set up a British-registered business called HM China.

The other accused former spy, 68-year-old Pierre-Marie H, was allegedly recruited by Beijing when he was approaching retirement and looking for extra income. He was arrested at Zurich Airport in December 2017 after arriving from Sri Lanka carrying more than €25,000 in cash.

No information explaining a link between the two men has been revealed as yet. But a former colleague of the pair told Paris-based news magazine that they believed “Henri M betrayed out of love and began working with the Chinese. He would appear to have served as liaison agent with Pierre-Marie H and his import-export business justified his travels.”

The wife of Pierre-Marie, Laurence H, is also going on trial accused of “concealment of property derived from intelligence with a foreign power likely to harm the fundamental interests of the nation”.

Because of the highly sensitive nature of the case, the trial opened behind closed doors, and the court will be “made up exclusively of professional magistrates”, says France24.

The verdict is due to be handed down on 10 July.

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