Sunday, December 27, 2015

CAUGHT WITH HIS FINGERS IN THE HONEY POT

The perception of our diplomats serving abroad as models of rectitude is generally well founded but, as with every 'profession', the occasional black sheep distinguishes themselves.

Noel Clark was 34 when, in 1977, he posted to our embassy in Moscow as the Trade Commissioner with full diplomatic clearances and a brief to expend our trade with the then Soviet Union.  Clark had a background in economics and fisheries and was generally considered to be an 'up and comer' in the service.    At that time the so called 'cold war' was full on and, while New Zealand was a small fish in the espionage game, if the KGB could obtain access to the cipher equipment and codes in the embassy this was intelligence gold as they could be used to gain classified information from both the UK and the USA.

In spite of a generous living allowance Clark was looking for a sideline to boost his salary. His plan was simple. He traded on his privileged status as a diplomat to buy large amounts of sought-after 'D-coupons' used as currency in special duty-free stores to buy goods such as stereos, TVs and the like which were unavailable to ordinary Russians.   He then sold on-sold the coupons (which was illegal) for well over their face value to other foreigners who were not entitled to them and, in doing so, raked in large profits.   He wanted more.   He bought and sold four cars in spite of embassy rules restricting him to two only.   

All this time the Russians were watching and they decided to exploit his greed and so it was that Clark became the sprat with which the Russians hoped to land the big one.   The KGB secretly photographed Clark involved in a deal in which a package containing D-coupons was exchanged with one of their agents.   They confronted Clark with a prepared newspaper article and photographs which they said they would run in Pravda unless Clark agreed to spy for them.   Clark was known to senior Foreign Affairs staffers as having a remarkable capacity for thinking he could bluff his way out of a crisis.   At first he prevaricated but, when the KGB threatened to harm his family, he fronted up to the Ambassador and alerted him to what was happening.

The nest day Clark (and his family) were escorted to Sheremetyevo airport where they left on the first available flight.   They left in such a hurry that when embassy officials checked their apartment they found two rare and valuable icons left behind.   While it would have been illegal to export the icons they would have fetched a considerable sum sold overseas. 

Clark was debriefed by the SIS when he changed his story several times.   It is understood his bank accounts which grew to include one in California were never checked.    He was persona-non-grata in MFAT and instead worked for MAF in  a variety of senior management appointments before retiring to the Wairarapa where, no doubt, he reflects on what might have been.



7 comments:

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy said...

The new hearing aids you got seem to have worked well on your eyes.

You're going to have to increase the size of your font or I'll have to get my hearing aid updated as well!

Lindsay Mitchell said...

Very good TTSS.

I too am squinting hard and wondering what happened. Now I know.

Anonymous said...

Ian Clark, not Noel Clark...(FWIW)

Adolf Fiinkensein said...

Control plus Shift plus +

The Veteran said...

Anon 8.20 .... Ian Noel Clark but commonly known as Noel.

Anonymous said...

@The Veteran: Interesting....I knew the man as a colleague and he was always known to us only as Ian. Perhaps Noel to friends and family? Not important anyway...

Adolf Fiinkensein said...

Perhaps he wanted to 'distance' himself from Noel?

There would have been a deal of publicity about his diplomatic depredations.