A British expat living in Spain is unwillingly sharing her home with a man thought to be a Russian spy threatened by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Maria Lloyd, 64, had long rented out part of the home she shares with husband Eladio Freijo, 77, near Madrid, to hundreds of strangers via Airbnb.
But now the retired couple has a permanent guest with a chequered past.
The visitor, a mysterious character named Felipe Turover, 57, arrived at the couple’s Madrid property amid Storm Filomena in January 2021 – the city’s heaviest snowfall in decades.
At first, Turover appeared to be a perfect guest, helping with shopping, playing with the family dog and always paying on time.
But Turover eventually stopped paying, and after running his name through Google, Maria discovered her unwanted squatter was a former KGB agent once threated with ‘liquidation’ by Putin.
Now, the Lloyd-Freijo family is claiming that the former spy is refusing to leave her home, and due to Spanish laws which make the eviction of squatters particularly difficult, has no choice but to share her property with a very dangerous man.
‘It’s a total nightmare that I’m living with this,’ Maria said.
‘This is my house, yet he has more rights than we do.’
Felipe Turover hugging Pippa, the Lloyd family’s dog. At first, Turover appeared to be a perfect guest, helping with shopping, playing with the dog and always paying on time. But Turover eventually stopped paying
Maria, whose father Courtenay Lloyd happened to teach Russian to British spies at the Joint Services School for Linguistics, said that Turover was a welcome and considerate paying guest until September of last year.
He initially booked a 10-day stay at Maria’s home in Villaviciosa de Odon on the outskirts of the Spanish capital, and when the initial stay expired, Turover negotiated an indefinite extension with his hosts.
Maria said the trio came to a verbal agreement and the guest paid every ten days ‘religiously’.
‘He led a quiet life, going to an expensive gym used by Real Madrid players and to the mountains at the weekend,’ Maria told The Times. ‘He was never in our way.’
But over time, Maria grew curious as to why her guest was staying for such a long time, and decided to Google his name.
Her cursory internet search revealed that Turover was in fact linked to the KGB – the notorious foreign intelligence and domestic security service of the Soviet Union.
Even despite the startling revelation, Maria and her husband gave Turover the benefit of the doubt, reasoning that his time with the KGB had been left behind him.
‘I thought he was a good man who had helped uncover corruption. He paid on time did not cause any trouble,’ Maria said.
However, when Turover suddenly stopped paying rent in September last year, things quickly turned sour.
After a few weeks went by with Turover coming up with excuses as to why he was unable to pay his dues, Maria and Eladio confronted their unwanted guest.
They said they were forced to call the Civil Guard when Turover point-blank refused to vacate the premises – at which point the unfolding saga descended into what Maria described as a ‘nightmare’.
The Spanish police informed the worried couple that due to Spain’s housing laws, Turover could not be evicted unless the hosts were able to obtain a formal order from a judge.
Turover told Spanish paper El Pais: ‘Who doesn’t have a dispute with Airbnb or someone about having to pay more or less? I’ve had maybe a few disputes, like half of Spain.’
Online searches suggested Felipe Turover had a history as a former KGB agent, the Airbnb host said. But despite the startling revelation, Maria and her husband gave Turover the benefit of the doubt, reasoning that his time with the KGB had been left behind him
Maria and Eladio opted to filed a civil court case in December in an attempt to force Turover out, but in the meantime have no choice but to sleep in the room next door to a former Soviet spy.
The couple are now likely faced with a lengthy and potentially costly legal battle.
‘How can this be happening to us in our own house?’ Lloyd said.
‘We are at our wits’ end.’
Turover himself has spoken about his ties with the KGB several times.
He was cited as a primary contributor for the book ‘Putin’s People: How the KGB Took Back Russia and Then Took On the West’ by the Financial Times’ former Moscow correspondent Catherine Belton.
He also told El Pais that his life was threatened by Russian President Vladimir Putin over a cup of tea in Moscow in 1999.
According to the former spy, he was heavily involved in the downfall of Boris Yeltsin, who served as the first president of Russia from 1991 to 1999 following the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Turover, who reportedly leaked sensitive information about Yeltsin and other high ranking officials to Swiss prosecutors months before Yeltsin was replaced, quickly realised he was in danger.
He said that Putin met with him at a Moscow hotel one night September 1999, where he was told: ‘You have two weeks to leave the country. If you don’t go, we either lock you away or we liquidate you.’