Cyprus justice minister says police searching Russian spy suspect’s confiscated laptop

Monday, July 5, 2010

Cypriot authorities searching spy suspect’s laptop

NICOSIA, Cyprus — Cyprus police are searching the contents of a confiscated laptop belonging to an alleged Russian spy who has vanished, the east Mediterranean island’s justice minister said on Monday.

Loucas Louca says U.S. authorities have requested the laptop and “more than one” USB memory stick belonging to 54-year-old Christopher Metsos.

Louca said the laptop and USB memory sticks were confiscated on June 29 when Metsos was arrested trying to board a flight to Budapest, Hungary. The items were not returned to Metsos after a Cyprus court released him on $33,000 bail on June 30, after which he promptly disappeared.

Metsos is wanted in the U.S. on charges that he supplied money to a spy ring that operated under deep cover in the suburbs. He arrived in Cyprus June on 17, traveling on a Canadian passport.

The minister said the search is part of routine procedure to determine whether the laptop contains information relevant to the case, legally enabling Cypriot authorities to turn the laptop and memory sticks over to U.S. authorities.

Cyprus Attorney General Petros Clerides will decide whether the retrieved information warrants the laptop’s transfer to U.S. authorities, Louca said.

“We have no reason to keep the laptop if the Attorney General decides so,” Louca told the Associated Press.

The minister said that Canada’s ambassador to Greece and Cyprus, Renata E. Wielgosz, confirmed that the passport Metsos was using is genuine, but said it was obtained using the identity of a boy who died at the age of 5.

Cyprus President Dimitris Christofias said Metsos has likely fled the island.

Metsos’ disappearance deeply embarrassed Cyprus authorities. But Christofias deflected U.S. Justice department criticism, saying U.S. authorities were slow in providing certain documents to Cypriot police.

Louca said he has asked for a report detailing events surrounding Metsos’ disappearance.

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