A British expatriate living in Spain inadvertently shares her home with a man believed to be a Russian spy threatened by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Maria Lloyd, 64, has long rented out part of the house she shares with husband Eladio Freijo, 77, near Madrid, to hundreds of strangers via Airbnb.
But now the retired couple has a regular guest with a troubled past.
The visitor, a mysterious character named Felipe Turover, 57, arrived at the couple’s Madrid premises in January 2021 amid Storm Filomena – the heaviest snowfall in the city in decades.
At first Turover seemed like a perfect guest, helping with shopping, playing with the family dog and always paying on time.
But Turover eventually stopped paying, and after searching his name through Google, Maria discovered that her unwanted squatter was a former KGB agent once threatened with “liquidation” by Putin.
Now the Lloyd-Freijo family allege that the former spy refuses to leave her home, and because of Spanish laws that make 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 have to live with this,” Maria said.
“This is my house, but he has more rights than we do.”
Felipe Turover hugs Pippa, the Lloyd family dog. At first Turover seemed like 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 Turover had been a welcome and attentive paying guest until September last year.
He initially booked a 10-day stay at Maria’s house in Villaviciosa de Odon on the outskirts of the Spanish capital, and when the initial stay expired, Turover negotiated with his hosts indefinitely.
Maria said the trio came to a verbal agreement and the guest paid “religiously” every ten days.
“He led a quiet life, going to an expensive gym used by Real Madrid players and going to the mountains on weekends,” Maria told The Times. “He never got in our way.”
But over time, Maria became curious as to why her guest stayed so long and decided to google his name.
Her cursory internet search revealed that Turover had indeed ties to the KGB – the Soviet Union’s infamous foreign intelligence and internal security agency.
Despite the startling revelation, Maria and her husband gave Turover the benefit of the doubt, reasoning that his time with the KGB was behind him.
“I thought he was a good man who helped expose corruption. He paid on time, that didn’t cause any problems,’ says Maria.
However, when Turover suddenly stopped paying the rent in September last year, things quickly went wrong.
After a few weeks passed with Turover making excuses for not being able to pay his dues, Maria and Eladio confronted their unwanted guest.
They said they were forced to call the Guardia Civil when Turover flatly refused to leave the premises – at which point the unfolding saga descended into what Maria described as a ‘nightmare’.
Spanish police informed the concerned couple that, due to Spanish housing laws, Turover could not be evicted unless the hosts could get a formal order from a judge.
Turover told the Spanish newspaper El Pais: ‘Who doesn’t have a dispute with Airbnb or anyone about having to pay more or less? I may have had a few fights, like half of Spain.’
Online searches suggested Felipe Turover had a past 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 was behind him.
Maria and Eladio have chosen to file a civil lawsuit in December in an attempt to get Turover out, but meanwhile have no choice but to sleep in the room next to a former Soviet spy.
The pair are now likely to face a lengthy and potentially costly legal battle.
“How could this happen to us in our own home?” said Lloyd.
“We’re at our wits’ end.”
Turover himself has spoken several times about his ties to the KGB.
He was named as one of the main contributors to the book “Putin’s People: How the KGB Took Back Russia and Then Took On the West” by Catherine Belton, the former Moscow Financial Times correspondent.
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 closely involved in the downfall of Boris Yeltsin, who was Russia’s first president from 1991 to 1999 after 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, soon realized he was in danger.
He said Putin met him one night in September 1999 at a hotel in Moscow, where he was told, “You have two weeks to leave the country. If you don’t go, we’ll lock you up or liquidate you.’