The Toronto-born son of Russian spies has won a court battle to regain his Canadian citizenship after it was revoked by Ottawa.
The long-awaited Federal Court of Appeal decision in Alexander Vavilov’s favour is the latest twist in an intriguing espionage saga that spans continents and cultures.
Vavilov was born in 1994 as Alexander Philip Anthony Foley to Donald Heathfield and Tracey Ann Foley. The following year, the family — including an older boy, Timothy — left Canada for France, where they spent four years before moving to the United States.
“He’s very happy obviously. Both of them are very happy. I think if I remember correctly his words were, ‘I can’t wait to get to home soil,'” Hadayt Nazami, lawyer for Alex and Timothy Vavilov, told CBC News. “He feels, they both feel, they have been exiled from their home, that they have been robbed of their identity through no fault of their own.”
Alexander’s life unravelled in June 2010 when the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation turned up at the family’s Boston-area home.
“I remember vividly the FBI agents entering our house with weapons as I walked down the stairs,” he said in an affidavit filed with the court. “My parents were handcuffed in front of my eyes and I was led to a dark car outside without being told why my parents were being arrested.”
In all, 11 people — four of whom claimed to be Canadian — were indicted on charges of conspiring to act as secret agents in the United States on behalf of the SVR, the Russian Federation’s successor to the KGB.
Heathfield and Foley admitted to being Andrey Bezrukov and Elena Vavilova.
The FBI said Moscow had instructed Bezrukov and Vavilova to gather information about U.S. foreign policy. They apparently communicated with Russian spymasters through special computer software that embeds secret messages in images.