LONDON -- Canadian Prof. Hugh Hambleton changed his innocent plea to guilty today and was sentenced to 10 years in jail for passing NATO secrets to the Soviets in the late 1950s.
'Even though these offenses were committed a long time ago,' Justice Croom Johnson told Hambleton, 'they catch up with you in the end.'
The sentence followed a dramatic change of plea by the 60-year-old professor of economics who had denied two charges of photographing top-secret NATO documents and passing them to the Russians while in NATO's Paris offices from 1956-61.
Attorney General Sir Michael Havers told the court earlier Tuesday he had new evidence from the Canadian and French governments destroying Hambleton's defense that he actedas a double agent passing the Russians information under the control of Canadian and French secret services.
Hambleton, looking tired and unhappy, remained silent through the proceedings apart from saying 'guilty, sir,' to the clerk of the court when the charges were read.
The first charge was that between 1956-1961 he communicated top-secret and confidential material belonging to NATO to a Russian agent. The second charge alleged that between Sept. 1956 and Nov. 1979, Hambleton obtained information calculated to be useful to an enemy.
Justice Croom Johnson directed the jury to find Hambleton guilty of the first charge and directed that the second should be suspended until a later date.
Hambleton, an economics professor at Laval University in Quebec, admitted in court Monday he had passed hundreds of secret documents to the KGB, but claimed it had been authorized by his Canadian and French spy masters as 'disinformation' designed to confuse the Soviets.
But the attorney general knocked that claim down Tuesday by reading statements from Raymond Marc, special section head of the Soviet department of the French intelligence, who said Hambleton had never been a French agent.
Another from Jean Giroud, director general of the security service of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, said the professor had never been a Canadian agent either.
The economics professor said he was a triple agent in a bizarre spying assignment involving Canada, France and the Soviet Union. He said he spied on the Soviets for Canada and France, and in classic double-agent style, had let the KGB think he was working for it.
In a twist, Hambleton contended Monday he was also spying on France for Canadian intelligence.
British Attorney General Sir Michael Havers, the prosecutor, called Hambleton's claim 'one of the most serious allegations you could make against NATO states and embarrassing for NATO too.'
Havers said he would ask Canada to check Hambleton's alleged Montreal intelligence contact, named by the defendant as Jacques La Liberte. Havers also asked for details about Hambleton's purported French contact in Paris, Jean Masson.
Prosecutors said Hambleton developed a relationship with the KGB over a 30-year period beginning in Canada in the late 1940s. Secret decoding equipment was found in his Quebec apartment along with chemicals and special paper for writing secret messages.