Russian spy suspects reveal true identity: prosecutors
A couple detained in the US-Russia spy scandal confessed to being Russian citizens living under fake identities, prosecutors said, as they prepared to reveal new evidence of the 11 suspects' alleged conspiracy against the US government.
The government said its charges were now backed by "well over" 100 decrypted messages between conspirators compared just a handful of other such messages presented earlier.
Suspects "Michael Zottoli" and "Patricia Mills" -- a married couple ordered by a judge in Alexandria to be kept detained along with suspect Mikhail Semenko -- confessed in post-arrest statements that their given names were fake and that they in fact were Russian citizens, the prosecutors said.
"Zottoli" admitted his true name was Mikhail Kutzik and that his real birth date was different to the one given under his cover, they said, with "Mills" confessing her real name to be Natalia Pereverzeva.
Both have family members still living in Russia, they said.
The court was unlikely to grant the three suspects even temporary freedom, with US authorities still sweating over the disappearance in the spy saga of eleventh suspect Christopher Metsos, who was arrested in Cyprus but vanished after posting a 26,500-euro (32,330-dollar) bond and surrendering his passport.
Cyprus's Justice Minister Loucas Louca said Friday he believed Metsos was no longer on Greek-Cypriot territory, but admitted he had "no hard evidence" to support the claim, as police continued to hunt for the suspect.
There was speculation that Metsos, 54, might have crossed into northern Cyprus to take advantage of the fact that the breakaway Turkish Cypriot statelet has no extradition treaties and is a well-known haven for fugitives.
In total 10 suspects were arrested in the Sunday swoop on alleged "deep cover" agents living in the United States, in a case that has recalled shadowy Cold War hostilities between the superpowers.
In searches of Kutzik and Pereverzeva's home and rented safe deposit boxes since their arrest, prosecutors also said among other evidence 80,000 dollars in cash was found in eight envelopes, "packaged in exactly the same way" as those recovered in New Jersey this week in search warrants on other suspects.
Revelations over false identities Friday came as the British former husband of the glamorous 28-year-old Russian suspect Anna Chapman told how she was dominated by her KGB father.
Alex Chapman told Britain's Daily Telegraph that the spying allegations did not surprise him, five years after his and Anna's marriage broke down as he feared she was being "conditioned" to become a spy.
"Her father controlled everything in her life, and I felt she would have done anything for her dad," Chapman told the daily.
Counting the three suspects in court Friday, all but one of the 10 captured in the US have been ordered kept behind bars.
Only Peruvian-born journalist Vicky Pelaez, the wife of one suspect in the case who operated under the false identity of "Juan Lazaro," was told this week by a New York judge that she could be released under house arrest on a 250,000-dollar bond.
"Lazaro" cracked after his arrest to confess he was a Russian agent, but refused to reveal his true identify, and told prosecutors he had more loyalty to the "Service" than to his own son. The "Service" is short for Russia's foreign intelligence service SVR, the successor to the Soviet-era KGB.
The charges of trying to infiltrate US policymaking circles has threatened to upset efforts to "reset" ties between Washington and Moscow.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, on a visit to Ukraine, declined Friday to comment on the spy scandal, saying only that Washington is "committed to building a new and positive relationship with Russia.
"We're looking toward the future," she insisted.
The future for the case is unlikely to wrap up anytime soon, however.
The three suspects in Alexandria were ordered back in court for a preliminary hearing Wednesday, while suburban Boston couple Donald Heathfield and Tracey Foley were to be held in jail until a new hearing set for July 16.
Bail has meanwhile been denied to the couple Richard and Cynthia Murphy, who were accused of secretly garnering high-level contacts since the mid-1990s while posing as a suburban New Jersey couple.
The nine suspects face up to 25 years in prison for money laundering as well as another five years for conspiring to work for a foreign government. Chapman faces lesser conspiracy charges.
None were charged with the more serious offense of espionage.
© 2010 AFP