UK Foreign Secretary asked if murdered businessman was MI6 spy

Neil Heywood


Britain’s Foreign Secretary has been officially asked by a parliamentary committee whether Neil Heywood, the British businessman who was found murdered in China last November, was spying for British intelligence. There is no question that Heywood, a financial consultant and fluent Chinese speaker, who had lived in China for over a decade, maintained contacts with intelligence insiders. In the past, he had collaborated with Hakluyt, a business intelligence firm established and staffed by former officers of MI6, Britain’s external intelligence agency. British government sources have denied that the murdered businessman had ever been employed by the British state. But Heywood’s background —his schooling at Harrow, his background in international relations, his contacts with senior Chinese Communist Party apparatchiks, and his language skills— have given rise to intense speculation that he may have been an asset for British intelligence. Yesterday British newspaper The Daily Mail cited “a well-placed source” in claiming that Heywood “passed information to MI6 as an agent of influence”. Speculation about Heywood’s alleged contacts with British intelligence is bound to increase following news of an official request on the subject, issued to British Foreign Secretary William Hague, by the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee. The request, submitted in the form of a letter (.pdf) authored by Committee Chairman Ricahrd Ottaway, urges Hague to address “speculation” about the murdered Englishman’s profession. In the letter, Ottaway asks the Foreign Secretary to clarify whether Haywood had ever supplied intelligence “on a formal or informal basis” to Britain’s embassy in Beijing or its consulate in the city of Chongqing, where Heywood was found dead last November. Given Heywood’s background and position, intelNews believes that it is unthinkable that he had not been at least approached by MI6 at some point during the past decade. At the same time, it must be assumed that the Chinese would have figured that out, so the extent to which Haywood was successful as a non-official-cover MI6 operative is open to interpretation. This author’s view is that Heywood may have been one of those intelligence operatives who eventually realize that they can be far more successful as business consultants, particularly at a booming economic environment like China’s. Which is probably why he was not working for MI6 or any other intelligence agency at the time of his death.

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