Will Cohu

The fallen Angel

The story of the ‘Angel’, the spy Ashraf Marwan who worked for Mossad

Ashraf Marwan was an Egyptian-born businessman, a son-in-law to Nasser and a political high-flyer in the administration of Sadat, who fell off the balcony of his flat in Carlton House Terrace, central London, in June 2007. His death was watched with incredulity by business colleagues assembled in an office across the road, who recalled seeing two burly, possibly Middle-eastern figures framed in the tableau. Investigations were inconclusive. Marwan, then in his sixties, wasn’t well, but hadn’t seemed suicidal. On the other hand, he had been afraid, and with good reason, because plenty of people wanted him dead.

Marwan had been a spy. That seems to be the most concrete element about his story. While the source of his money and the nature of his true loyalties remain elusive, it was undeniable that he passed Egyptian military secrets to the Israelis. They codenamed him the Angel, but there are Israelis and Egyptians who claim that he was a diabolically clever double agent, or something even more bewildering.

This is not a new story. Marwan has been picked over since his death, and The Angel was first published in Israel in 2010. Even so, the story retains its fascination and it is well told by Bar-Joseph, a specialist in Israeli military intelligence, who served as an intelligence reservist in the Israeli Defence Forces, and gives an especially gripping account of the tensions Marwan wrought among the Israeli military hierarchy.

By birth, Marwan was of the privileged Egyptian middle class. Handsome, charming and ambitious, he secured a place in the dynastic fabric through marriage to Nasser’s younger daughter and later cannily backed Sadat, becoming presidential secretary and a ubiquitous fixer. But from 1970, he was betraying secrets to Israel, via regular London contacts with Mossad that he had initiated.

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