New York: Whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks has published a confidential US State Department cable in which a US official is quoted as saying that in August 2007, then China’s finance minister Jin Renqing resigned due to a mistress who was also romantically linked to several other prominent Chinese officials.
Officially, however, it was stated that Renqing resigned for “personal reasons”.
Investigators suspected that the mistress was not just a "social butterfly”, but a professional foreign spy. They now believe she was a Taiwanese intelligence operative.
Renqing, along with the other officials reportedly wooed by his mistress, may have fallen victim to one of the oldest tricks in the espionage book: the honeypot.
"Honeypots or honeytraps are sexually appealing persons used to ensnare someone in whom intelligence agencies have an interest, most often someone who has access to secrets," Mark Stout, International Spy Museum historian and former CIA analyst, told ABC News.
Though the gambit reaches back into ancient times, perhaps its most famous case came during the First World War when Dutch courtesan Mata Hari was accused of seducing French officials and passing intelligence gleaned from them along to her German handlers.
During the espionage heyday of the Cold War, honeypots became common on both sides, the practice romanticised in James Bond movies.
In 2009, England`s MI-5 issued a 14-page document to hundreds of British businesses warning against Chinese attempts to set up honeytraps, according to a report by The Times.
Later the same year, reports emerged that several prominent Russian politicians and businessmen, many critical of the government, had been separately duped into sleeping with a Russian government agent -- with the whole affair caught on hidden camera.
Last October, an Israeli rabbi officially blessed honeytrap sex for female spies, according to a study called "Illicit Sex for the Sake of National Security”.