A Russian citizen working as a parliamentary aide has won her appeal against deportation after a court rejected MI5’s claim that she posed a threat to national security.
In a judgment handed down this morning, the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (Siac) ruled that Ekaterina Zatuliveter should not be deported back to Russia on the grounds of absence of evidence.
Zatuliveter, who had an affair with Liberal Democrat MP Mike Hancock while working as his aide, was last year accused of working for Russian intelligence service SVR.
The court heard evidence from MI5, partly in secret, that the Russian exploited her relationship with the MP for the purpose of passing on government information to Russian spies.
Zatuliveter’s counsel Matrix Chambers’ Tim Owen QC attacked the UK security service’s investigations, likening MI5 to bumbling inspector Inspector Clouseau.
Giving his ruling, Justice John Mitting concluded that “on balance of probabilities” Zatuliveter was not a Russian spy.
“Her activities would have been of great interest to the SVR, but they are also entirely consistent with her being an ambitious young woman with an intense interest in politics and international relations,” he said.
“Even if she was approached in Russia by the SVR, we have seen nothing which satisfies us that she was recruited as an agent or was tasked, or acted, as one.”
The Home Office said that it was disappointed by the ruling despite Siac confirming that there was ample ground for suspicion at the time of investigation.
Owen was instructed by Public Interest Lawyers’ Tessa Gregory on behalf of Zatuliveter.
Matrix Chambers’ Jonathan Glasson, instructed by the Treasury Solicitor, appeared on behalf of the Home Office.