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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Ambassador Insists 'I Don't Run a Spy Shop' in Canada

OTTAWA -- Declaring "I don't run a spy shop here," Russia's ambassador to Canada said a man arrested as a threat to Canada's national security was more likely a mobster or drug dealer than one of his country's top spies.

Ambassador Georgy Mamedov told CBC Newsworld television late last week that he did not have "the foggiest idea of the true nature of this mystery forger in Montreal."

Mamedov dismissed suggestions that the man known as Paul William Hampel was an agent of the Foreign Intelligence Service, or SVR.

Hampel was taken into custody by the Canada Border Services agency Nov. 14 and accused of being a foreign spy deemed threatening to Canadian security. No allegations against Hampel have been proven, and he has been unavailable to comment on the claims against him.

"From my unenlightened position, this case is far from [a] slam-dunk," Mamedov said. "I don't see anything that pins him to our door."

Mamedov said Hampel, who authorities said was caught carrying a false birth certificate and passport along with the equivalent of $6,800 in five different foreign currencies, could be a mobster or an agent of "any kind of international group."

But he offered no evidence to support his assertions or counter the charges. "Whatever information is considered useful, I can legally obtain it from conversations with your politicians, business people and so on," he said. "We're not in the 'war mode' any longer, so I don't see any secrets that would be so important as to send some kind of illegal agent to Montreal."

Canadian Federal Court Justice Pierre Blais granted a defense request Wednesday to adjourn Hampel's case until Tuesday.

Complaining he had not seen prosecution documents, defense lawyer Stephane Handfield said it was too soon even to say whether he would contest the national security certificate, which allows federal officials to arrest and ultimately remove noncitizens deemed security threats.