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Libertines, Lotharios or Bastards?

Make Mine A Triple

Make Mine A Triple
Dušan Popov 1912-1981

James Who?

Lisbon 1941

A secret agent walks into a casino.

In his pocket is eighty thousand dollars in cash to cover the expenses of his next mission.

Observing him from a discreet distance is one of his spymasters – a naval intelligence officer named Ian Fleming.

As a frequent visitor, the agent nods to familiar faces here and there – then his gaze settles upon one man in particular.

Sat at the baccarat table is an obnoxious Lithuanian businessman who is so wealthy that when he holds the bank he never sets a limit on the amounts of money his fellow players can bet because he thinks – in these cash strapped war years- he can always match them.

The agent thinks he’s an arrogant wanker.

He sits down at the table, the Lithuanian as usual declares an open bank….. “‘Banque ouverte,”

The agent reaches into his pocket and peels off $50,000.

"Banque Ouverte this you prick!" “Banque Ouverte this you prick!”

A crowd gathers and the Lithuanian – who has to match the bet – pulls the face of a man who has just soiled himself.

Watching from the shadows, Fleming is horrified that money vital to the war effort could be wasted.

The agent however knows that the casino must first agree to cover the Lithuanians side of the bet should he be unable to pay and that is something they never do.

There is no danger of the money being lost.

The agent reminds the croupier that allowing anyone to call Banque ouverte,” is a breach of their code.

Then, in full view of the casino’s patrons he upbraids the humiliated Lithuanian for being a “disgrace and an annoyance to serious players” before picking up his money and walking out – glancing at Fleming who he knew was watching him the whole time.

Impressed by his style, the author-in-waiting starts making notes.

"I've just had a great idea for a story" “I’ve just had a great idea for a story”

The debonair spy and playboys name is Dušan Popov, a 29-year-old Serbian double agent pretending to work for the Nazis while actually serving the Allies.

As a student in Freiburg, Popov could already speak several languages and possessed a passionate dislike of National Socialism.

Every Friday, Nazi students would host a lavish dinner for those, like Popov, who were attending from abroad. Afterwards they engaged in “spontaneous” debates which – because they had secretly studied the subjects beforehand – they would invariably win.

When Popov found out, he managed to learn of the subjects in advance himself and being an intelligent, erudite speaker, make the Nazis look like total morons in front of the other students.

With war looming, he made himself available to the British and was given the codename of “Scout.” His ability to think quickly and seamlessly engage with people from all strata’s of society made him ideal agent material.

When war finally broke out, Popov allowed himself to be recruited into Nazi Intelligence…The Abwher.

After skilfully bluffing his way through a series of brutal and complex interrogations about his racial background and political beliefs, he became one of their most trusted operatives.

The Nazis trust however was spectacularly misplaced. Posted to Lisbon, Popov approached MI6 and offered himself as a double agent.

Arriving in Bristol in the winter of 1940, he was met by a chauffeur and driven to the Savoy Hotel in London.

Interrogated by the allies, he told them that disorganisation and in-fighting among Nazi officials meant that the much feared invasion of Great Britain wouldn’t actually happen.

If proven right it would be an impressive introduction.

While MI6 investigated his claims, Popov was free to explore London and indulge his love of fast cars, expensive drink and women – many of whom subsequently enjoyed the view from the window of his Savoy suite.

"Fancy a ride on my tricycle ladies?" “Fancy a ride on my tricycle ladies?”

One of the theories that he was given a new code name of “Tricycle” because he enjoyed convivial threesomes could have begun at this time.

Or maybe not.

Popov spent Christmas day 1940 lunching at Quaglinos, playing billiards at The Lansdowne Club in Berkeley Square, returning to the Savoy for dinner and champagne before heading to a nightclub for dancing and making new friends.

An army major who accompanied him on this festive jaunt remembers that “he took part in the Christmas bonhomous rioting, well lubricated by champagne and viewing things through rose-tinted spectacles.”

When the invasion of Great Britain didn’t happen, his MI6 bosses accepted that he was both useful and could be trusted.

In their final meeting before Popov returned to Lisbon, his new commander, the head of MI6, Major General Stewart Menzies known as “C”, brusquely but accurately summed up how he saw Popov’s character.

"I'm Watching you, Popov" “I’m Watching you, Popov”

“You are honest, but without scruples. Your instincts and intuitions are stronger than your intelligence, which is way above average.

Your conscience never bothers you. You are ambitious and ruthless and you can be cruel, although in an animal and not a sick way. When you are frightened you don’t panic. Danger is a stimulant for you”.

You don’t like following orders, you better learn to otherwise you will be a very dead spy.”

"Secret Agent is Cool, Double Agent is Cooler" “Secret Agent is Cool, Double Agent is Cooler”

Popov’s mission was to travel from Lisbon to America and present the FBI with information he had gathered from German Intelligence about possible Axis targets in America.

Arriving in New York aboard a Pan Am flying boat, Popov met with FBI agents and as a sign of good faith gave them details of a new German development to conceal photographs and documents called a “Micro Dot”.

He also advised them that a lot of attention was being paid by the Germans to the suitability of potential American military targets including a place called Pearl Harbour.

The agents said they’d be in touch and a bemused Popov Popov was told he would have to wait a few weeks for an appointment with FBI chief J Edger Hoover – he decided to wait in comfort.

Popov installed himself in a Park Avenue apartment and began spending his impressive expenses – after all if one’s cover is that of a wealthy playboy one must do ones best to blend in.

He “blended in” with as many beautiful women as he could while wining and dining in the finest New York nightspots – often being photographed by the gossip columns.

"Of course i'm keeping a low profile - I'm under these chairs" “Of course i’m keeping a low profile – I’m under these chairs”

A disapproving and somewhat suspicious FBI bugged his hotel room but all they discovered was that he was having a much better time than they were.

Bored of the clumsy scrutiny and still with no invite to see J Edgar, Popov took one of his lady friends on a well-earned break to Florida.

Relaxing on the beach he was slightly nonplussed to be approached by an FBI agent – sweltering in the heart, wearing a suit and tie.

He informed Popov that by bringing a woman across state lines for “Immoral Purposes” he was contravening the Mann Act and could be arrested.

"You wouldn't believe what my day job is" “You wouldn’t believe what my day job is”

Popov polity told him to “Fuck Off!”

Back in New York, a tanned and relaxed Popov continued to laugh in the face of his low profile by reigniting an affair with a beautiful French film star named Simone Simon.

This was all too much for the strict moral compass of J Edgar Hoover – well known for his dislike of playboys, foreigners and double agents – who was livid.

You come here from nowhere and within six weeks install yourself in a Park Avenue penthouse, chase film stars, break a serious law and try to corrupt my officers. I’m telling you right now I won’t stand for it.”

He screamed at Popov when the two finally met.

"No one calls me a cross dressing bully boy," “No one calls me a cross dressing bully boy,”

Reminding him that perhaps he’d be better off investigating the threat of an attack on Pearl Harbour than having a go at a flamboyant foreign double agent, Popov received short shrift.

“Maybe you want to teach me how to do my job?” snarled Hoover

Mr Hoover sir,” said Popov as he got up to leave “, I don’t think anyone will ever teach you anything.”




“When you love life, good wine, good company, and still can do good serious work, it is not being a playboy it is living life to the full!”. –Dušan Popov

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