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University of Calgary graduate accused of espionage


A University of Calgary alumnus has been arrested under suspicion of being a Russian spy, according to Norway's domestic security agency.

José Assis Giammaria was taken into custody earlier this week.

The man – who claimed to be a Brazilian researcher – received a master of strategic studies from the U of C in 2018. Before that, he studied at Ottawa's Carleton University, earning a degree in 2015.

At the time of his arrest, it's believed Giammaria was participating in research at a local post-secondary school that specializes in Arctic studies.

“We have requested that a Brazilian researcher at the University of Tromsø be expelled from Norway because we believe he represents a threat to fundamental national interests,” police security service deputy chief Hedvig Moe told Norwegian broadcaster NRK.

That report said Giammaria was apprehended Monday on his way into work.

Norwegian authorities have expressed doubt about Giammaria's Brazilian nationality, according to a court order reported on by Norwegian newspaper VG.

"The department's assessment is based on information that the foreigner is in Norway on assignment for the Russian authorities and that he may be a Russian citizen with incorrect Brazilian identity papers," the order read. "Nothing has subsequently emerged to indicate that the ministry's assessment is not correct."

Giammaria's lawyer told the paper that his client was innocent, instead pointing to a so-called "spy mania" that has gripped Western countries.


The U of C confirmed to CTV News that Giammaria attended classes there.

"A course-based Masters in Strategic Studies is a degree program that shares content with programs in political science, history and international relations," the University of Calgary wrote in a statement on Wednesday. "Students in this program are taught by professors and instructors – not military professionals – to build a well-rounded understanding of the drivers of military, security and strategic decision-making.

"No access to information is provided that any other student in any other program wouldn’t have."

The U of C added that any claims surrounding identity or criminal background are the responsibility of the federal immigration department.

CTV News spoke to one professor who taught Giammaria. They did not want to be identified, but say the student did not stand out for any particular reason.

In 2019, after his graduation, Giammaria published an article in the Canadian Naval Review. It made a case for erecting a Canadian Forces base at a deep water port in Churchill.


Norwegian authorities told NRK they believe Giammaria to be part of an illegals program.

Former national security analyst and current Carleton associate professor Stephanie Carvin says that was her first instinct, too.

"There's two types of spies," she told CTV News Wednesday. "There's 'legals': people who are often attached to an embassy, and 'illegals.' 'Illegals' are under deep cover, and what they try to do is usually develop what's called a legend, or a backstory."

Carvin believes that could be the reason Giammaria was in Canada.

"It's doubtful that this person was trying to steal any information here in Canada, or at the University of Calgary," she said. "It seems more likely that this person was trying to get a credential here in Canada, so that when this person went on to actually do their mission – perhaps in Norway – they had a legitimate reason for being there, and had some kind of credentials to make them seem more legitimate."

At least seven spying-related arrests have been made recently in Norway. Russian nationals have been suspected of illegally flying drones near airports and recording footage in restricted areas. Top Stories

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