The head of West German counter-intelligence has been unmasked as an East German spy.
Hans-Joachim Tiedge’s treachery became known after he defected to East Germany yesterday.
The spy chief’s defection was made public by the East German authorities earlier today.
They also revealed that in the past 18 months they had arrested nearly 170 West German agents in East Germany after acting on intelligence from Mr Tiedge.
When security officials searched Mr Tiedge’s home in Cologne they found many top-secret documents.
The West German Chancellor, Helmut Kohl, has described the former spy chief’s defection as “catastrophic”.
In what is rapidly turning into the biggest spy scandal in recent West Germany history, three other key government staff have also disappeared.
A link to Mr Tiedge’s defection appears likely.
Questions are now being raised about the recently-appointed head of the Federal Information Service, Herbert Hellenbroich, who until last month was Mr Tiedge’s boss.
Mr Hellenbroich repeatedly resisted efforts to get Mr Tiedge removed from his post in spite the potential risk caused by a serious drink problem.
Recruiting Han-Joachim Tiedge is the latest coup for the Russian-born head of East Germany’s spy service, Markus Wolff.
A few years ago an East German defector put the number of eastern spies operating in West Germany at 3,000 – including a large number of women.
Many of them are believed to be so-called “secretary-spies” recruited under an initiative of Mr Wolff’s which targeted single women working in the West German administrative capital, Bonn.
They were supplied with “suitors” – East German agents – who persuaded them to spy on their ministerial bosses.
One such agent was, Leonore Suetterlin, a foreign ministry worker wooed for months by a “photographer”.
She subsequently married him and joined the KGB’s payroll.
She committed suicide after being uncovered.
Courtesy BBC News
At least six people were suspected of involvement in Hans-Joachim’s Tiedge’s spy ring.
A number of Bonn secretaries also came under scrutiny. One of them – Herta-Astrid Willner – worked in Chancellor Kohl’s office.
Shortly afterwards she and her husband defected to the East.
The previous year a secretary in the West German president’s office was revealed to have been an East German spy for at least 15 years.
The artificial border erected in 1961 which divided the German nation into East and West meant that it was relatively easy for agents to operate for years without causing suspicion.