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NEWS FROM THE DEAD DROP — THE CROOK WHO FOUND HIS FACE, THE SPY WHO LOST HIS SECRETS

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By John Helmer. Moscow

Confidential subscribers to Dances with Bears have been provided with directions and codes required to find, then open, the dead drops for leaving and collecting the sensitive information on which this website’s investigations depend. This month the dead drop is a rat.  Inside the rat there is a moisture-proof container for miniaturized rolls of film, tape-recordings, official documents, and secret messages.

This week the rat has disgorged two film negatives. The first reveals the face of Benedict Worsley, the man behind Russia’s biggest bank robbery who, until now, has kept his face out of the public media and off the internet. The second is Robert Owen-Jones, an Australian government espionage agent.   Next week he will take over as the Russia-hating chairman of the global diamond trade regulator known as the Kimberley Process.

In this shot by a portrait photographer, Worsley is described as “Basil”, and the year of the portrait published as 2008; location Nottinghill, London. The photographer who took the shot and reproduced it is Katharine Cooper [2], who is based in Arles, near Worsley’s two French residences.  For more on Worsley’s homes, read this [3].  For the year-old dossier of the Trust Bank fraud and embezzlement case, in which Worsley is an informant, click to open [4].

Until now, sources who know Worsley have described him as Alec Guinness–like (below, left). The sources confirm that Worsley is the man on the right.

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One of the sources says that in the eight years since Worsley was photographed in London, he has lost most of his remaining hair and grown “a lot fatter”. He has also acquired thicker spectacles.

A helpful informant also to have found his way to the rat this week has left behind a follow-up to last month’s report on US and Canadian moves to put pressure on Russia in the global diamond trade.  For that story, read this [6]. Next week in Dubai there will be the annual session of country representatives to the Kimberley Process, the international committee for monitoring the diamond trade to prevent diamonds mined in areas of civil war from being smuggled to global markets to finance communal blood-letting.

Because Australia will be the country taking over the Kimberley Process (KP) chairmanship by rotation, the government in Canberra has named Owen-Jones as its nominee for chairman of the KP. Referring to the Owen-Jones Linked-in resume [7],  a South African diamond industry source said he hopes Owen-Jones will have learned to spell Kimberley, the South African diamond town, by the time he takes over the chairmanship.

Owen-Jones’s official biography reports a string of posts in the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade; two tours in the Australian Embassy in Moscow; a military stint at the Australian Joint Services Staff College; and this line [7]: “Mr Owen-Jones served also as the Senior Strategic Advisor in the Prime Minister’s Office of National Assessments.”

ONA is part of the Australian espionage complex. A former Australian ambassador to Moscow, Margaret Twomey, was also an ONA spy; for her dossier, read this [8].

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Left:  Robert Owen-Jones, ex-ONA station chief in Washington; right , Margaret Twomey, currently Australian ambassador in Fiji

In the case of Owen-Jones, his espionage cover was blown in Washington, DC, in 2004, when he was exposed after he forgot his briefcase full of highly classified documents at a meeting-room in the US Congress. At the time Owen-Jones occupied “one of Australia’s most senior overseas intelligence posts”, according [10]to Australian state radio. Although the briefcase and the secrets were retrieved and returned to Owen-Jones, officials at the Central Intelligence Agency were furious, and the government in Canberra recalled Owen-Jones in disgrace.  He was then moved into the Australian foreign ministry with diplomatic cover.