Gareth Jones

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Public Records Office information on Wostwag and Adam Purpis[s].

Ref KV2/1655 

[For private and academic use only]

After information from Soviet defector Krivinsky in 1938, MI6 opened up a case file, but Wostwag appears to have already been under surveillance in 1936. There is a cross-reference to another case file on Wostwag at the PRO (PF45633) – but unfortunately it appears to have been ‘lost’. 

Wostwag was originally a German company with outlying branches trading on a barter system and mainly in the lucrative market of furs in exchange for machinery, vehicles and airplanes. 

On the advent of Hitler’s power, the Nazis wanted to ‘natzify’ the main office in Berlin, so the branch stations became autonomous and broke all links with Germany, under the new name of ‘Far Eastern Fur Trading Company', with the main financial clearing office in Upper Thames Street in London. 

There are references of at least two major transactions into Purpis’ bank account of $150,000 (to set up The Oriental Trading and Engineering Company in New York) and (I seem to remember reading in the file of another transaction, but have not got a photo of it) for $100,000 into his Shanghai account from Martins Bank, London.  Purpis also in one report appears to have set up as a sole trader in 1938. 

He made several trips to Europe – first noted in September 1936, under a false Honduran passport. Purpis eventually is observed arriving in the US in late 1938 and then his whereabouts becomes unclear, but was clearly in business there. 

The Far Eastern Fur Company was during 1940 broken up by the British and the directors interrogated, as it was considered to be a ‘company trading with the enemy'. 

I start this document with a curio – a letter from Philby's opposite number at MI5,  Department Head Roger Hollis, departmental head of Soviet & Communist affairs. In 1945, Philby was, according to his autobiography 'My Silent War', responsible; "under the [MI6] Chief, for collection and interpretation of information concerning Soviet & Communist espionage and subversion in all parts of the world outside British territory." [cited from p100 - N.B. The Jane Archer mentioned below worked for Philby as an Intelligence Officer in Section IX, but had previously been the officer in charge of Krivitsky's interrogation by the British in 1939. Bob Carew-Hunt was entrusted by Philby with the composition of background papers on Communism, becoming MI6's acknowledged expert on the subject.]

At the end of the document I have added a provisional conclusion with respect to GJ.



Krivinsky did not defect until 1938 – this evidence shows that MI5 were monitoring Wostwag back in 1936 before his revelations – note Purpis was being tracked in the cellotaped section below from London Airport, to Amsterdam and Berlin in late September 1936 – a long way from Kalgan! 

Purpis False Passport Claim, Liddell Correspondence and 1938 Travel


1945 FBI Report with specific reference to Wostwag 



It is a real shame that the original Wostwag MI5 file has been lost.  (STOP PRESS - October 2005 - This file was not lost but only released on the 7th February 2005 case file (KV2 /1655) ).

Nevertheless the FO were aware of Wostwag in Gareth’s file from October 1935. In reply to Sylvester (Lloyd George’s secretary) who reported that Adelaide Ferry Hooker had thought after seeing Wostwag Company and bullet ridden car in Kalgan, that they were a German company trading as a Soviet front.  Kitson of the FO wrote:  “According to ‘Oriental Affairs’ for Sept [1935] ‘Wostwag’ is believed to have good Soviet connections otherwise they would not be able to get the necessary trading permits for Mongolia, which no other foreign firm can get.” 

[CLICK HERE for three articles by Adelaide Hooker in Good Housekeeping from July, Aug & Sept 1930 of her three month trip to the USSR with her sister Helen in 1928, where Adelaide Hooker remarks in the second article that Helen Hooker coinicdentally danced with Litvinov, who one should remember personally banned gareth in 1933. Hooker was socialite friend of Gareth's from New York, whose sister Blanche was married to John Rockerfeller III. Adelaide was in transit from Japan to London on the Trans-Siberian Express at the time of Gareth's kidnapping. She made a detour to Wostwag in Kalgan, where she met Purpis and Mueller on the day of his release from the bandits. She also saw the bullet-ridden car from which Gareth & Mueller were kidnapped. On her arrival in London, she met Lloyd George and informed him that in her opinion Mueller was a Nazi (not Soviet) agent. The British FO's 500 page report into Gareth's murder was by accident or by intention, put off the scent of any Soviet culpability into GJ's murder...]

Unfortunately, it does not look like any connection with GJ's kidnapping from the (NKVD associated) Wostwag's vehicle was made by MI5 – though this report of Kitson was sent to the British Embassies in both Berlin and Peking. 

When London ‘Wostwag’ was busted in 1940 at the start of the war, for trading with the enemy, Gluckmann said under interrogation that Wostwag were very worried from 1932 onwards about Japanese expansion in Manchuria would stop them trading in the area. 

This is an important point – Wostwag was a real cash-cow to the Soviets – after GJ’s murder they were able to buy at least nine DC Douglas aircraft and three Fokkers. 

Whether Wostwag just wanted a cover for their driver to see what was happening in Dolonor or had more sinister intentions, they got a result – they were able to continue to trade in the area until probably the Rape of Nanking in 1937 – after which Purpis set up a company in New York in 1938. 

We do know that Mueller was persuaded by an unknown third party to take GJ on this ‘free’ journey courtesy of Wostwag, but was this an opportunist offer made by Purpis in Kalgan, or made by Mueller in Pekin and possibly arranged as far back as when Gareth was in Tokyo, staying with NKVD agent Gunther Stein, who allowed his apartment to be used by the Soviet spy Richard Sorge?? [Update Nov 2005 - From recently released PRO MI6  records at Kew Gardens, Mueller is now known to be a Communist 'agent' - CLICK HERE for details].

Stein had only just arrived in Tokyo just before GJ and, coincidentally was the Berliner Tageblatt correspondent in Moscow back in 1933 and would have known that GJ had embarrassed the Soviets, maybe he also knew of the Soviets concerns over loss of trade in Manchuria? It is believed that Stein was on special NKVD work as he was not allowed to officially join Sorge’s spy ring. Could you the Soviets have colluded with the Japanese 'Strike-South' political faction so as to weaken the 'Strike -North' faction who had designs on Outer Mongolia and Siberia as well as Northern China?

We do know however, that there were two Japanese observers with the first set of kidnappers – perhaps the Japanese in Dolonor were tipped off by Mueller / Anatoli of GJ’s ‘importance’ being connected with Lloyd George – and they then organised an incident like the Mukden Incident, which would allow them to legitimately expand their borders in order to protect their own interests in this lawless area. 

But it went wrong for the Japanese, possibly by Soviet design or intention and the result was that Gareth’s murder was indeed able to ‘pay-back’ the Soviets with interest, for his former embarrassment of exposing the famine. 

Soviet retribution was complete…  

© Nigel Colley 2004-07. All Rights Reserved.

 KV2 /1902 - Newly released Wostwag File in 2005 at PRO


Newly released PRO file  of Wostwag has the following appraisal of Purpis - KV2 /1902 Note from the US Foreign Service of American Embassy in London to MI6 – 13  by JA Cimperman  on 13 January 1949.- transcript below:



 It is stated that Chase has not been informed of the full list of directors but understood that Mr. CLARKE is a Director as is Mr. JOHN E. KLIEBEL of New York. It is stated that Mr. PURPISS told the Shanghai Branch of Chase that he was formerly General Manager of the predecessor company for several years; and previous to that, had been in business on his own account. He is a Latvian by birth but travels under a Honduran passport. It is stated that he is considered one of the shrewdest and cleverest men in the Far East  and in the past has made his headquarters in Kalgan. The memo continues to state, “it is reported further that  he was one time associated with Cheka, Soviet Russia’s extraordinary secret service organization, and also that he was forced to leave Kalgan owing to threats against his life. It has also been rumored that Mr. PURPISS is associated with the Third International and reportedly he was previously in Hamburg, Germany, and had experience in hog casings and furs. Of recent years, it seems he has been the domineering factor in the Far Eastern business of “WOSTWAG”.

Important newly discovered cross-reference:

According to Nigel West's 2005 book; "Mask: MI5's Penetration of the Communist Party of Great Britain", which has as an appendix ,an MI5 report on the intelligence it gained from interviewing Krivitsky in 1940. In a summary of personalities named by Krivitsky, it describes Purpis thus; "A Lett, he travels on a Honduras passport. The OGPU illegal rezident in the UK 1931 - 1934, during which time Arnold Deutsch was his assistant. Recalled to Moscow to the OGPU's headquarters staff."  [Deutsch one should remember was involved in recruitment and handling of the Cambridge ring.]

Now, if this report of Purpiss being the UK Illegal Rezident {i.e. the NKVD agent operating outside the embassy] is true, then it makes Purpiss a very big Soviet fish indeed... However, IMHO it seems unlikely that this is the same Purpis known to Gareth in Kalgan. More likley, the presence of two agents with the same name of Purpis' in different theatres of influence was designed to cause confusion within the British/Western security services as to the exact whereabouts of Soviet agents. Furthermore, from the British PRO dossier on Dr Herbert Mueller, it is quite possible that another Soviet agent of exactly the same namewas operating in India at the same time as Gareth's Mueller was in China....

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