NBC’s ‘Dateline: The Spies Next Door’ features the sensational case of Russian spy Anna Chapman who was arrested by the FBI and deported to Russia in 2010. The femme fatale has since then upped the ante with her exotic looks and causing controversies one after another — from her racy pictures on Instagram to her open support for former US President Donald Trump to proposing marriage to NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden on Twitter. If you’re interested in discovering her early life and how she was caught, here’s what we know.
Who Is Anna Chapman?
Anna Chapman was born Vasilyevna Kushchenko to Irene and Vasily Kushchenko in Volgograd in Russian SFSR, Soviet Union, on February 23, 1982. Reports stated her father, Vasily, worked as a diplomat in Kenya alongside Sergei Ivanov — Russia’s first deputy prime minister, a career spy, and a friend of Vladimir Putin’s. Anna’s British ex-husband, Alex Chapman, claimed she was groomed to be an intelligence agent by her father, who worked for the Russian Foreign Ministry as of 2010. Her mother, Irene, worked as a maths teacher in Russia.
She was studying for a master’s degree in economics at Moscow State University and was traveling during her summer holidays when she met Alex at an underground rave party in London’s Docklands in September 2001. Alex, then 21, worked at a recording studio, and Anna, then 19, was due to return to Moscow two days later. However, the young couple fell in love and married in March 2002, with Alex quitting his England job and finding work as a private English tutor in Russia.
After a delayed honeymoon trip to Egypt and Zimbabwe in 2002 summer, the couple rented a flat in Stoke Newington, north London. They set up a charity called Southern Union — funded by a millionaire South African friend of Anna’s father — and enabled Zimbabwean expats to wire money back home at competitive exchange rates. The Chapmans lived a quiet life for the next two years, with her shuttling to and from Russia to finish her economics master’s degree, graduating with first-class honors in 2004.
Alex recounted, “Anna was an extremely passionate, caring, and loving woman. She was also extremely intelligent — she has an IQ of 162, and it showed because she juggled so many things at once and made them successful.” Due to her short marriage with Alex, which ended in 2006, Anna gained British citizenship, besides her native Russian one, and a British passport. A Barclays Bank spokesperson confirmed that Anna worked in its small business banking division — NetJets Europe — between 2004 and 2005.
Reports claimed Anna had visited the United States on and off since 2005 before permanently settling in Manhattan in 2009 to start a business —PropertyFinder Ltd. — that maintained a website featuring real estate listings in Moscow, Spain, Bulgaria, and other countries. She took up residence at 20 Exchange Place, one block from Wall Street, and began using online social networks to develop business contacts and market her skills. She was listed as the Chief Executive Officer of her business, worth approximately $2 million.
Despite their divorce, Alex and Anna remained close friends, and he watched her achieve overnight success after moving to America. He recounted, “She kept telling me it (her business) was still in the red. Then, in 2009, she sent me an email saying she was meeting all these big name City types, and in the space of what seemed a few weeks, she was employing 50 people, and the business was flourishing.” Alex added, “Clearly, a lot of money had been pumped into the business from somewhere, but I couldn’t work it out.”
Where Is Anna Chapman Now?
However, an FBI investigation a few months later revealed Anna Chapman’s secret— she was a Russian spy. As a part of their decade-long investigation into deep-cover Russian operatives called Operation Ghost Stories, the FBI monitored Anna’s activities for about a year. She was part of a suspected spy ring where six of the ten suspected spies had assumed the identities of dead Americans, living normal lives with families while working covert missions to collect government secrets for Russian foreign intelligence.
Undercover FBI agents followed Anna to in-person meetings in bustling cafes and coffee shops. A surveillance tape captured her transmitting messages from a department store to her contacts outside, while surveillance teams even intercepted encrypted messages from her specially adapted laptop. Erstwhile FBI Counter Intelligence Assistant Director Frank Figliuzzi stated, “We were able to capture wirelessly the communications between her and her handler.” He said Anna transmitted from at least six locations.
Director Figliuzzi added, “She transmits and receives messages from the official who is nearby but not anywhere near visibly close to her. She is transmitting encrypted code that the FBI was able to break.” Following that, they successfully planted an informant in the spy ring. The federal agents also hacked Anna’s computer, causing technical issues, before sending the informant to fix the problem. The undercover agent revealed she used the laptop to create a private wireless network to communicate with a Russian government official.
However, Anna suspected the American government was onto her and panic-called her father in Moscow several times. Shortly after, the FBI arrested the spies on June 27, 2010, and they pleaded guilty to conspiring to serve as unlawful agents of the Russian Federation within the US 11 days later. But they were never convicted of espionage as the US transferred the ten spies into Russian custody in exchange for four prisoners allegedly connected to Western intelligence agencies on July 8, 2010.
According to media reports and her American lawyers, Anna wanted to shift to the UK. However, the British Home Office issued legal papers revoking her citizenship on July 13, 2010. Since her return to her native country, Anna has remained in the public spotlight ever since as a high-profile social media influencer, fashion designer, model, and political operative. She was appointed to the Young Guard of United Russia’s public council in late December 2010. She also began hosting a weekly TV show in Russia called ‘Secrets of the World’ for REN TV.
As a model, Anna posed on the cover of the Russian version of Maxim magazine in Agent Provocateur lingerie, which also included her in its list of Russia’s 100 sexiest women. She has also appeared as a runaway model in several fashion shows and parlays her media capital through social media platforms, including Twitter and Instagram, to voice her political opinions. According to her social media pages with thousands of followers, the 41-year-old continues to live in Russia and remains extremely secretive about her private details.