TODAY 1944, MI6 London received an unusual delivery—a diplomatic bag originating from Lisbon containing cash. A lot of cash. Fifty thousand dollars (about $700,000 today), to be precise.
From a German spy.
The money was for Britain's greatest operative, double agent Dusko Popov (code- named TRICYCLE), and had been sent by Abwehr agent Johann Jebsen (whom the British had code-named ARTIST). Popov, who had been recruited by Jebsen to spy for Germany, had for three and a half years so convinced the Germans of his indispensability that he now demanded an outrageous sum—$150,000 (roughly $2.1 million today)—or he was quitting. It was an unnecessary gamble and an eye-watering bluff, but Popov always pushed to the precipice, never bothering to run most of his ideas and decisions past his British handlers.
Popov's demand was absurd; $150,000 was in all likelihood more than the aggregate payments made to all German spies. Yet, the loss of agent IVAN's (Popov's German code name) work was unthinkable. His most recent reports—particularly about the impending Allied invasion of France—Jebsen had said, were considered "as good as sure" in Berlin. The Abwehr agreed to the demand—$75,000 up front, $75,000 upon receipt of Popov's May report. Funds were sent to Jebsen in Lisbon and Johnny deducted $25,000—$20,000 of which he was sending to agent PAULA (Dusko's brother Ivo, British double agent DREADNOUGHT) per Dusko's request, and $5,000 which Jebsen was retaining as a commission.
Since Dusko was now in England, Johnny delivered the funds to an MI6 contact in Lisbon, who forwarded the funds to London.
The following day, April 30, Jebsen disappeared.
Larry Loftis is the author of INTO THE LION'S MOUTH: The True Story of Dusko Popov—World War II Spy, Patriot, and the Real-Life Inspiration for James Bond (Berkley, 2016) and the upcoming nonfiction thriller, THE COURIER: The True Story of World War II's Most Highly Decorated Woman (Gallery/Simon & Schuster, January 15, 2019).