Cyprus authorities stepped up their search today for the 11th alleged member of a Russian spy ring who vanished after skipping bail, but police refused to answer questions about why the suspect was granted bail in the first place.
Police spokesman Michalis Katsounotos said police had “no indications yet” that 54-year-old Christopher Robert Metsos had left the island or crossed over into its breakaway northern Turkish sector.
Metsos, who says he is Canadian, is wanted in the US on charges that he supplied money to the spy ring that operated under deep cover in America’s suburbs. He was arrested on Tuesday in Cyprus as he tried to board a flight for Budapest, Hungary but a Cypriot judge freed him on €27,000 bail. Metsos failed to show up on Wednesday for a required meeting with police.
The police spokesman deflected criticism today regarding Metsos’ release by the Cypriot court.
“The nagging question of why he was released on bail is best posed to the court, not the police,” Mr Katsounotos said.
Metsos could have slipped into the Turkish Cypriot north of the island, which is recognised only by Turkey and has no formal extradition treaties with other countries. The north is linked to Turkey by an airport and ferry services, and ferries also run to Lebanon and Syria.
Turkey is bound by Interpol warrants, although northern Cyprus is not. In 1993, businessman Asil Nadir jumped bail and fled Britain for northern Cyprus, where he still resides.
Mr Katsounotos said Metsos arrived on the island on June 17. Cypriot authorities received the Interpol arrest warrant on June 25.
A Turkish Interior Ministry official said today he had no information about any search warrant for Metsos, but if one was issued, Turkish police at airports and ports would be on the lookout for him.
About 25 flights take off daily from northern Cyprus to more than a half-dozen Turkish cities.
Turkey’s Mediterranean coast is 960 miles long, making it difficult to control, but Turkish authorities frequently intercept illegal migrants trying to sneak in.
Crossings between the north and south of the island were forbidden until 2003, when authorities on both sides relaxed restrictions.
In the United States, nine others charged in the spying case were having bail hearings today in federal courts in New York, Boston and Alexandria, Virginia.
A 10th defendant, Anna Chapman, was denied bail on Monday. Chapman, a striking 28-year-old redhead, faces a potential penalty of five years in prison if convicted.
Most of the others are charged with crimes that carry penalties of up to 25 years.