The Russian Federation has a rich heritage totaling more than $16 million in buildings in the Montreal region. These properties, all acquired during the Cold War era, are linked to espionage and counterintelligence operations.
Our Bureau of Investigation has uncovered several interesting pieces of information about these properties, some of which are shrouded in mystery. The consulate did not respond to our questions on these.
This almost anonymous apartment building on Boulevard Pie-IX housed the trade delegation of the USSR, then of Russia, until 2009. It served as a cover for at least one KGB spy. Vladimir Vetrov, one of the most notorious Soviet moles of the Cold War, officially worked there as an "engineer" during a brief stint in the 1970s.
Vetrov had quickly been identified as a spy for the Committee for State Security (KGB) by French intelligence services as early as the late 1960s, when he was based in Paris.
When he arrived in Montreal in 1973, under commercial cover, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) had therefore been informed. But the Canadian government still agreed to give him a visa.
The Canadian police also learned from their French allies that the Soviets had "a pronounced taste for the Western way of life."
As soon as Vetrov settles in Montreal, the RCMP will try an approach to recruit him as a collaborator.
The theft of jewelry from Vladimir Vetrov's wife, Svetlana, will serve as a pretext for the police to contact him.
But the RCMP will not succeed in recruiting the Soviet spy.
“A mole within the RCMP had warned the KGB, almost in real time, of the operation directed against Vladimir Vetrov in order to recruit him”, explain the authors Raymond Nart and Jacky Debain in the book The Farewell affair seen from inside.
“The RCMP security service and later the CSIS had installed cameras on the grounds of the Botanical Garden to monitor the residence some forty years ago,” recalls journalist Normand Lester.
After only nine months in Montreal, Vetrov will be repatriated to Moscow.
It is ultimately the French who will make it one of the most famous Soviet moles.
In the early 1980s, the French Territorial Surveillance Directorate (DST) obtained thousands of pages of secret Soviet documents thanks to Vetrov, who photographed them using a camera supplied by the CIA.
The mole, codenamed Farewell, also provided a list of over 400 KGB agents.
Back in the USSR, Vetrov was executed in 1985 for treason.
In 2010, the rue Pie-IX building was renovated to add two apartments to the two already existing.
When the Journal passed, no one was there.