Double Agent Blake’s Family Sought to ‘Cash In’: UK Govt Papers

George Blake, a former British spy who doubled as a Soviet agent, gestures during a 1992 news conference in Moscow. (AP Photo/Boris Yurchenko, File)

LONDON (AFP) — The British government suspected the family of the late double agent George Blake of seeking to cash in on his notoriety after he fled to the Soviet Union, according to government papers released Wednesday.

The Cabinet Office papers released by the National Archives date back to 1969, three years after the former British spy had broken out of jail and fled to Moscow.

They include a letter from a senior intelligence official saying the BBC had contacted Blake’s family with a request to interview him.

Edward Peck, the then-chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee, wrote in the top-secret letter that Blake’s mother and sisters “have in the past shown an unpleasing disposition to cash in on his story” and were urging him to accept for a “substantial fee.”

Blake, who died on Saturday at the age of 98 after decades living in Russia, was recruited by the British secret service during World War II. 

He later agreed to spy for the USSR after developing Communist sympathies. Sentenced to 42 years in jail, he escaped from London’s Wormwood Scrubs prison in 1966 and was smuggled into the USSR via East Germany.

Peck suggested that a senior diplomat should talk “informally” to the heads of the BBC and the main commercial television authority ITA to dissuade them.

He said Blake should not “have an opportunity to glorify his treachery” and benefit from his crime as an escaped convict.

Later in 1996, the British government sued Blake over his memoirs “No Other Choice,” published in 1990. 

The case was ultimately successful and Blake was deprived of royalties of £90,000. He later won back a fraction of this.

A paper giving suggested answers to media questions said that it was an “important principle that Blake should not profit from publishing information that he obtained while working for the British government.”

The briefing notes say the government did not have advance warning of the publication and did not try to stop it. It said the book was a commercial “failure” for publishers Jonathan Cape.

Information that Blake was writing memoirs first circulated in 1970, according to the papers.

The papers also focus on numerous attempts to block interviews and film and television projects involving Kim Philby, a member of the Cambridge University spy ring who defected to the Soviet Union in 1963.

© Agence France-Presse

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