Hanssen gave money to Teresa's charities

WASHINGTON, JUNE 16. The wife of the former FBI agent, Mr. Robert Hanssen, has told investigators that a Catholic priest had knowledge of his spying for Russia which started over 20 years ago; and that her husband gave some of the money he had received from the then Soviet Union to charities run by Mother Teresa.

According to Ms. Bonnie Hanssen, the Catholic priest had initially advised her husband to turn himself in but subsequently asked the one time top agent in the counter-intelligence division to give $20,000 in spy earnings to charity.

Hanssen did this by giving away small amounts to Mother Teresa's charities.

According to at least one media report, Mr. Hanssen's spying activities may have started as early as 1979 when he was working in the field office in New York.

The Justice Department, after initially seeking the death penalty for Mr. Hanssen, is now pursuing options for a plea bargain in which the accused spy will co-operate with authorities in return for a life sentence in prison.

The CBS network, which broke the story about Mr. Hanssen's confession and donations, said the spy continued to confess to priests in the 1980s and 1990s.

Ms. Hanssen, who is not under investigation, said her husband maintained in the Eighties that he was not giving away any vital information to the Soviets, that he was giving away the money to Mother Teresa's charities, and that he was cutting off contacts.

Mr. Hanssen, according to his wife, had said he was tricking the Soviets and seeing if they took the bait.

The priest whom Mr. Hanssen met for a confession in 1980 has not been formally quizzed by the investigators.

The priest is under no obligation to divulge the contents of his conversation with Hanssen. It is also being pointed out that while Mr. Hanssen has maintained that he gave money to Mother Teresa's charities, there are no records to this effect.

``We don't fund raise. We don't ask for money. We depend on divine providence. We don't have an army of accountants to check where donations came from. And I don't think we have records that would go back that far,'' Sister Mary Dominga of Mother Teresa's Missionaries of Charities of the Eastern United States region told The New York Times.