The Miami Herald
January 19, 1999
Spy ring for Cuba uncovered

             By MARTIN AROSTEGUI
             Special to The Herald

             MADRID -- In the most serious espionage case yet uncovered in Spain,
             prosecutors have charged five members of Spanish military intelligence and a
             businessman of spying for the Cuban government.

             The ring's activity involved secret meetings in Miami between the Spanish spies
             and their Cuban handlers, plus money laundering, industrial espionage and
             disseminating disinformation favorable to Cuba, court documents show.

             Spanish intelligence chiefs became aware that something was wrong when efforts
             to track more than 100 suspected Cuban spies were stymied because
             microphones hidden in several offices and apartments around Madrid suddenly
             stopped working.

             Certain suspects were also successfully evading surveillance squads and no longer
             discussing sensitive subjects in the usual places, a hint that Cuba was somehow
             learning a lot about Spain's spy-catchers.

             ``We were confronted with the first penetration of our . . . intelligence service since
             the East Germans tried it during the Cold War,'' said a Spanish intelligence officer
             who asked not to be identified.

             The accused officials of Spain's military intelligence agency, the Center of Defense
             Information and Studies (CDIS), will not be publicly identified until they appear
             before a special security court later this week, but the identity of the businessman
             is known.

             He is Jose Fernandez, an executive of several hotel and travel companies. He was
             denounced by a business partner, Fernando Molina, who lost money investing in
             Cuba, according to published reports.

             Scandal surfaced

             The scandal was broken last month by the Madrid newspaper La Razon and has
             heightened sensitivities surrounding King Juan Carlos' first visit to Havana,
             tentatively scheduled for March.

             According to court records and intelligence sources, Cuba's main overseas spy
             agency, the Ministry of the Interior's Directorate of Intelligence (DI) managed to
             infiltrate the CDIS through an officer identified so far only by his first name, Luis.

             Spokesmen for CDIS confirm that he held military rank and a position in the
             agency's spy-catching counterintelligence section, code-named IB-4, when he was
             recruited by the Cubans several years ago.

             Another CDIS employee described as a civilian technical specialist was also
             spying for Cuba, according to official sources who maintain that he has signed a
             confession and has been suspended from the service.

             Three other CDIS officials are being charged with helping Fernandez carry out his
             intelligence work for the Cubans, according to court records.

             Base was moved

             Cuba's Intelligence Directorate moved its main European base to Madrid in the
             early 1990s, after its previous base in Prague came under increased monitoring by
             pro-American Czech intelligence, U.S. officials said.

             CDIS officials believe Luis was approached by female Cuban agents in Madrid in
             1991, before he was sent to Havana briefly as part of a special contingent when
             the Spanish Embassy became jammed with dissidents seeking political asylum.

             It was then that CDIS believes their officer was ``doubled.'' His reports were filled
             with recommendations for giving in to Cuban government demands for the return
             of the dissidents, and warnings of an imminent raid on the embassy by elite Cuban
             troops that never took place.

             Spanish officials said Luis has since spied on Spain's military integration with
             NATO, the private lives of leading officials, and special operations units and
             electronic warfare capabilities, including a type of aircraft acquired from the United
             States that could be used against Cuba.

             According to CDIS sources, Luis came under suspicion after a series of visits to
             Miami, where he regularly contacted some companies believed to be used as
             fronts by Cuban intelligence.

             The Miami connection

             ``Miami was an important exchange and debriefing station for DI operations in
             Spain as it was considered an area where someone from Spain could travel
             regularly without generating suspicion,'' according to a source in the Spanish
             Defense Ministry. Some companies used by Cuban intelligence are believed to
             have been set up with the assistance of Spanish businessmen working for the
             Cubans, according to the CDIS, but none have been publicly identified.

             The accused spy, Jose Fernandez, helped to set up some DI fronts operating as
             travel agencies and other commercial enterprises in Florida, Madrid, London,
             Canada, Japan, Italy and Germany, according to recent Spanish media reports.

             Court documents in the case identified one of the companies as Grupo Oasis, a
             tourism firm registered in Panama that lists its business address in Cancun, Mexico,
             and runs several beach resorts in Cuba.

             Oasis has been linked to Spain's biggest corruption scandal, involving banker
             Mario Conde, currently jailed on embezzlement and fraud charges. Sources said
             Fernandez helped Conde funnel some $2 million to Cuba.

             Cuban Tourism Minister Osmani Cienfuegos made a discreet weeklong visit last
             summer to the Spanish resort of Marbella, where he was the guest of the mayor,
             Jesus Gil, a real estate developer recently convicted on charges of embezzlement.
             Marbella city officials allege that Gil's deputies regularly carry large quantities of
             cash to Cuba in briefcases.

             The spy scandal is the worst intelligence conflict between Madrid and Havana
             since Cuban agents tried to abduct a defecting Cuban diplomat from the streets of
             Madrid in 1986. That incident drew a diplomatic protest from the Socialist
             government of Felipe Gonzales.

             CDIS officials insist that the Cuban spy ring caused no substantial or long-term
             damage to Spain and expressed confidence that the moles were caught ``at a
             relatively green state'' before gaining promotion to higher positions.

             Cuban intelligence defectors also report that the cash-strapped Cuban economy is
             inhibiting its intelligence services.

             ``The Castro brothers now demand strict accounting of all money spent. This is
             demoralizing field operatives,'' one said.


                               Copyright © 1999 The Miami Herald