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Anti-asbestos campaigns infiltrated by corporate spy

A report in the Guardian newspaper claims that the global campaign to ban asbestos has been infiltrated by a ‘spy’ working in corporate intelligence. Corporate investigation firm, K2 Intelligence Ltd, are said to have employed someone to infiltrate anti-asbestos groups around the world, with a view to uncovering their plans for obtaining an asbestos ban.

Aggravated damages are being claimed against K2 Intelligence Ltd by two asbestos activists and a lawyer, for:

  • Breach of the Data Protection Act
  • Breach of confidence
  • Misuse of private information

K2 has yet to reveal the name of its client, who is said to be a corporation based outside of the UK, with interests in the asbestos industry. It is possible they may be forced to do so by order of the court, however, when it reconvenes in January, but the whole episode serves to illustrate just how intimidating and powerful the asbestos industry remains.

Posed as a journalist

The spy, known only at this stage as DNT, is said to have posed as a documentary film-maker in order to infiltrate anti-asbestos campaign groups, and find out top secret information on their plans to bring about an asbestos ban.

DNT originally targeted Laurie Kazan Allen of the International Ban Asbestos Secretariat (IBAS) in London in 2012, claiming he was a journalist and film-maker who wanted to bring the dangers of asbestos to the attention of a wider audience.

Through this connection he was able to attend a conference on asbestos where he made further contacts, and eventually went on to target the World Health Organisation and specific sections of the United Nations.

“An invasive attack”

The claimants’ solicitor, Richard Meeran, submitted a statement to court which included a description of how Laurie Kazan Allen, the person first approached by the spy, was affected:

“She has said that she feels like the victim of an intimate, aggressive, invasive attack. She has been having trouble sleeping and suffered from feeling immense shame for being entrapped by DNT and K2.”

DNT is said to have gathered 35,000 documents whilst spying on anti-asbestos groups over four years. Information included how campaigns were funded, their methods of operation, as well as sensitive material on campaign leaders and their plans for future campaigns.

A powerful industry

Although asbestos was banned in the UK in late 1999, it is still used in many countries today, including America and Canada. Russia and China are large producers of asbestos, with countries in the Far East including Vietnam and Thailand being major importers of the substance.

There have been claims that the asbestos industry has harassed and intimidated certain people in the past, with one such incidence taking place in the UK. The Independent newspaper revealed a smear campaign by asbestos producers, Turner and Newall, owners of the world’s largest asbestos factory.

Researchers for a documentary on the dangers of asbestos were said to have been spied upon during the 1980s, and later discredited by bosses at the factory who claimed the journalists were communists.