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Russian spy suspect missing, Cyprus police say

One of the 11 suspects accused by the United States of spying for Russia has gone missing after being released on bail in Cyprus, Cypriot police say.
/ Source: Reuters

An alleged Russian spy wanted by the United States has gone missing 24 hours after being released on bail in Cyprus, police on the Mediterranean island said on Wednesday.

Christopher Robert Metsos, 55, was arrested on the holiday island on Tuesday after being named by the U.S. Justice Department. He was released on bail but failed to report to a police station on Wednesday evening.

U.S. authorities believe he was the paymaster for a network of agents in the United States.

Cypriot police checked his holiday apartment in the southern coastal town of Larnaca but did not find him.

"An arrest warrant is being prepared for violating his bail terms," said police spokesman Michalis Katsounotos.

Metsos is thought to have managed payments to a group of agents collecting information on behalf of Russian intelligence for at least a decade. Ten suspects were arrested in the U.S. on Sunday.

A Canadian passport holder, Metsos was arrested as he attempted to fly out of Cyprus in the early hours of June 29 for Budapest. On the same day, a local court ordered he be freed on bail, rejecting a request from police he remain in custody until an extradition hearing scheduled for July 29.

His disappearance will be highly embarrassing for Cyprus, where individuals in extradition hearings or other court inquiries are often refused bail for fear of flight from the island, particularly through its north, which is an unrecognised breakaway state.

Metsos had been vacationing in Cyprus from June 17, and released on a 20,000 euro ($24,470) bail. Michalis Papathanasiou, the lawyer who represented him in court, told Reuters he had no contact with Metsos on Wednesday.

"We had scheduled a time to talk (about the case) today, but we didn't, I don't know what happened," Papathanasiou said.

Metsos had been staying at a hotel in Larnaca, a coastal resort popular with locals and European tourists.

After checking out of one hotel on Tuesday he checked in to another complex of modest holiday apartments off the Larnaca seafront promenade.

Cyprus, an EU member, attracts hundreds of thousands of European tourists each year. It is also an important offshore centre for Russian business, has a widely respected independent judicial system modelled on former colonial power Britain, and a communist president who is a fluent Russian speaker.

In the U.S., Metsos and the 10 people accused in the case face charges of collecting information on a range of subjects from research programs on small-yield, high-penetration nuclear warheads to the global gold market, and seeking background on people who applied for jobs at the Central Intelligence Agency.

The 55-year-old had specifically been accused of receiving and making payments to the other members of the group.

U.S. Justice Department documents say he received payments during a brush-pass with a Russian government official who was affiliated with the Russian mission to the United Nations in New York, and of burying cash that was then retrieved by other suspects.