Man accused of being Russian spy in Norway attended universities in Ottawa, Calgary

The campus of the University of Calgary, Saturday May 29, 2004. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

A man arrested in Norway who is suspected of being a Russian spy has ties to Canada.

Norwegian authorities arrested Jose Assis Giammaria on Monday on suspicion of being an “illegal,” a term that describes someone who is in the country with a false name and false identity.

Police allege Giammaria, described as a Brazilian researcher in the Norwegian press, is actually Russian and works for a Russian intelligence service as a spy.

His lawyer, Thomas Hansen, told Verdens Gang AS news agency in Norway that Giammaria denies the accusations and is in shock.

Read more: How a Dutch agency prevented a Russian spy from infiltrating ICC

A 2015 convocation program from Ottawa’s Carleton University shows Jose Assis Giammaria graduated with a bachelor of arts in political science with a concentration in international relations and a minor in communications studies.

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Sean Devine, who was recently elected as an Ottawa city councillor, said he remembers Giammaria as a canvasser on a campaign for the federal NDP in 2015.

“I didn’t know he was what people are saying he is,” Devine said in an interview with The Canadian Press. “He was the same as any other volunteer on my team.”

Devine said Giammaria was a good volunteer and the only thing that was unusual about him was that he wasn’t from Ottawa.

The University of Calgary said in a statement that Giammaria attended the Alberta school and graduated in the fall of 2018 with a master of strategic studies, a degree program that shares content with programs in political science, history and international relations.

“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,” said the statement.

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

Read more: U.S. judge gives Russian agent Maria Butina 18 months behind bars

David Bercuson, who was director of the University of Calgary’s Centre for Military, Security and Strategic Studies in 2018 and is now director emeritus, said he doesn’t remember Giammaria.

“I don’t know anything about him,” he said in an email. “I truly don’t.”

Gunhild Hoogensen Gjorv, who works in security studies at the Arctic University of Norway, told VG that Giammaria contacted her for work at the school.

She said he received a lot of praise from people in Canada.

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When asked whether he knew who in Canada may have provided a reference for Giammaria, Bercuson said he wasn’t sure.

“I really don’t know. I don’t know how well he did and I couldn’t reveal that information if I did,” he said. “I just don’t remember the guy at all.”

The University of Calgary referred other questions to the federal government.

No one from Immigration Canada or Global Affairs Canada responded to a request for comment.

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