thie.me | Jens Thieme views and discussions

thie.me | Jens Thieme views and discussions

thie.me | Jens Thieme views and discussions

Don Heathfield - Russian Spy?

Intelligence consultant arrested

It does not happen every day that you recognize a face you know well in the papers under the heading "CEO 'spy' with S'pore link". Someone I met on multiple occasions provided me just that experience this week. Exciting? Hardly!

Having worked in the global Competitive Intelligence arena as a leading Intelligence Officer and as a Director of the Board of the largest Competitive Intelligence association the networks are colorful and interesting. Sometimes a bit too colorful it turns out.

As reported in the global media, Don Heathfield (as we know today that might not have been his name) was arrested this week among 9 other people on charges of spying for the Russian secret service. Having dealt with Donald over the years at conferences and business meetings as well as casual chats and even personal lunches it strikes me how much one can be tricked into false identities or circumstances.

Not wanting to comment on Don's potential involvement before he might even be convicted, the shock sits deep as I was actually under the impression to have dealt with a proper company and a reliable, solid and trustworthy CEO of FutureMap (Don's business).

I still remember last fall when I asked him during lunch we had in Basel, Switzerland where his weird accent came from he responded candidly that his mother came from Eastern Europe. Something seemed fishy there as Don knew about my upbringing in former communist East Germany because it seemed odd that he did not mention a specific country in response let alone Russia. I clearly identified his accent on the spot but did not want to elaborate further for politeness.

Sometimes I wonder though what might have happened had I pushed him further and nailed the question on this Russian shade more closely... or whether I should avoid opening his LinkedIn page (that also shows my lose connection with him)...

LinkedIn.com profile of Donald Howard Heathfield, clear name: Andrey Bezrukov or Андрей Безруков.
LinkedIn.com profile of Donald Howard Heathfield, clear name: Andrey Bezrukov or Андрей Безруков.

UPDATE 2010/07/09

Apparently Don and his wife confirmed the claims and have been swapped with agents and spies of interest to the US in the largest spy swap after the cold war. According to a Boston Globe article Don's Russian clear name is: Andrey Bezrukov  or Андрей Безруков.

"Bezrukov and Vavilova have two sons, a 20-year-old student at George Washington University and a 16-year-old student of the International School of Boston. Both left the United States in the past few days and are in Russia awaiting the return of their parents..."

"The agreement requires Bezrukov and Vavilova to forfeit their $799,000 Cambridge townhouse, all the belongings and cash within it, and their US bank accounts and other assets.

They are also barred from profiting from any book or movie that tells their story, a common provision in such deals in American courts. In addition, they agreed to renounce any right to claim Social Security benefits they might have earned while living in the country.

They also agreed to never to return to the United States and to abandon any claim to US citizenship..."

UPDATE 2010/08/02

German Bild.de newspaper publishes more pictures and background story...

Donald Howard Heathfield, clear name: Andrey Bezrukov or Андрей Безруков.
Donald Howard Heathfield, clear name: Andrey Bezrukov or Андрей Безруков.

"Donald Howard Heathfield", clear name: Andrey Bezrukov or Андрей Безруков.

UPDATE 2012/07/31

Turns out Don and his "wife" Tracey Foley already had made arrangements for their children to be lured into spy roles as a second generation breed that would create much less alertness on the part of US authorities.

"The effort to bring children into the family business suggests the ring was thinking long term: Children born or reared in America were potentially more valuable espionage assets than their parents because when they grew up they would be more likely to pass a U.S. government background check." - quote WSJ of today.

UPDATE 2016/05/07

The Guardian writes about the sons who were born Canadians and had to relocate to Russia with their parents. A personal drama on a totally different level.