The exhibition includes a $2,300 (Rs 1.25 lakh) Chanel bag with built-in wi-fi so she could secretly communicate with her spy chiefs. Among the other items are a pair of FBI handcuffs used to arrest her and the Toshiba laptop that led eventually unmasked the 30-year-old.
The show, which includes hundreds of pieces of spy paraphernalia, will open at Discovery Times Square tomorrow. But it is Chapman that has caught the imagination, according to spy-book author and former CIA operative H Keith Melton, who is curating the exhibition.
He said, “If she had been here another six months, Anna Chapman could have become the most dangerous spy in American history.” Melton believes Chapman was well on her way to severally compromising US business interests until she handed her Toshiba laptop to an FBI informant posing as a Russian agent called Roman.
The laptop’s hand-over came the day before she was taken into custody in June 2010 during a meeting at the Starbucks at 10 Hanover Square in New York’s Financial District. Chapman had complained the computer didn’t work properly and the ‘Russian’ agent offered to have it fixed at the Russian consulate.
Melton described the sexy Russian as so friendly, personable and beautiful that her mission of gaining access to wealthy or influential American businessmen was easy.
Chapman had been told to sit in a coffee shop, turn on her laptop and any data she had collected about potential espionage targets would be transmitted to officers from the Russian consulate parked outside. At her final meeting, she became suspicious when Roman asked her to deliver a fake US passport to another sleeper agent — something she had never been asked to do before.
But she agreed to do it and then took the subway to Brooklyn, bought a disposable cell phone and a long distance telephone card and called her father in Moscow. However, Chapman had dumped the phone’s box, wrapper and receipt in a public rubbish bin — which allowed the FBI to tap the call.
With the FBI listening in, her father — who is also believed to be a Russian agent — advised her not to deliver the passport. Chapman then told him she had given the man her laptop. After a 15-second pause, her father said: ‘You shouldn’t have done that.’ The spy was arrested the next day when she tried to turn in the fake passport, claiming that she had found it on the ground.
The items on display at the exhibit will include:
A Chanel bag with built-in wi-fi which Chapman used
FBI handcuffs used to arrest her
A Toshiba laptop that eventually led to her arrest