Woman indicted in Cuba spy case flees to Sweden

Marta Rita Velazquez (right) allegedly reported reams of classified information back to Havana.

The US Justice Department on Thursday announced the indictment of a former State Department employee for allegedly spying on behalf of Cuba, but it is unable to arrest her because she lives in Sweden, a country that does not extradite citizens accused of espionage.

Marta Rita Velazquez, 55, a graduate of Princeton University and Georgetown University Law School, was indicted nearly a decade ago on charges of conspiracy to commit espionage. Velazquez lives in Stockholm and is aware of the charges against her, the Justice Department said. But the extradition treaty between the United States and Sweden does not allow extradition for spying.

“Espionage is considered a ‘political offense’ that, therefore, falls outside the scope of Sweden’s extradition treaty,” said Justice Department spokesman Dean Boyd. Swedish officials declined to comment on the announcement of the indictment.A grand jury in Washington indicted Velazquez in 2004, but the charges remained sealed until Thursday. “Velazquez has continually remained outside the United States since 2002,” the Justice Department said, frustrating U.S. attempts to arrest her. The United States notified her that she was under suspicion in December 2011. Attempts to reach Velazquez for her response to the indictment were unsuccessful.

Law enforcement sources said the FBI first learned about Velazquez in late 2002, after the debriefings of Ana Belen Montes, a former Defense Department analyst who pleaded guilty to spying for Cuba for 17 years. Montes told investigators that she met Velazquez while they were graduate students at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies in Washington and that Velazquez helped recruit her as a spy.“Velazquez would and did foster and maintain a close personal friendship with Ana Belen Montes in order to facilitate the recruitment of Montes to serve as an agent of the Cuban Intelligence Service,” the indictment states.Velazquez once mailed Montes a letter saying, “It has been a great satisfaction for me to have had you as a friend and comrade. . . . I hope our relationship continues outside the academic sphere.”According to the indictment, Velazquez, who was born in Puerto Rico, introduced Montes to a Cuban intelligence officer in New York, escorted her on a clandestine trip to Cuba for “operational training” and helped her obtain employment with the Defense Intelligence Agency.

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