Asbestos Industry ‘Spy’ Infiltrates Workers’ Rights Groups

File folder with confidential label

A case in the British High Court alleges a man posed as a sympathetic documentary filmmaker to infiltrate workers’ rights groups campaigning against asbestos, the toxic mineral linked to mesothelioma and other diseases.

Rob Moore is accused of acting as part of a worldwide espionage plan to gain secrets from organizations working in key countries seeking to ban asbestos and later discredit them.

Moore served as the front man for K2 Intelligence LLC, a leading intelligence firm hired by an anonymous corporation with interests in the asbestos industry, according to the Toronto Star.

According to testimony, Moore gained the trust of activists in the U.K., Canada and Thailand, gathering 35,000 documents throughout his four years of subversive work. He received more than $700,000 for his efforts, reports show.

British Claimants Lead the Suit

Two activists and a lawyer who advised an anti-asbestos campaign are seeking aggravated damages for breach of confidence and misuse of private information, according to The Guardian.

London-based activist Laurie Kazan Allen of the International Ban Asbestos Secretariat told the court Moore approached her in 2012, claiming he wanted to produce a documentary on the group’s asbestos fight.

Allen even connected Moore with one of her associates in Thailand, allowing Moore to collect confidential and sensitive information about the country’s plans to ban asbestos.

“They believed they were speaking to a journalist,” Guy Vassall Adams, one of the lawyers for the claimants, told the court. “It was a lie. He was a spy.”

The Guardian quotes a court document in which Moore explains his deception.

“I’ve been able to identify several news stories, angles, pegs and themes that would be of genuine interest to a documentary filmmaker, and I am confident that I can enter this world relatively easily and with a high level of legitimacy and credibility,” the Guardian reported.

Attorney Richard Meeran alleged Moore’s investigation tried to “uncover information that could be used to suggest the [anti-asbestos] network was being funded by those with a vested financial interest in it — namely lawyers and/or those in the asbestos substitute market.”

The goal was to “smear and discredit the network in the eyes of the states and organizations it sought to influence,” according to Meeran.

K2 Intelligence plans to argue they gathered minimal confidential information and their purposes for the investigation were just to better understand the anti-asbestos campaign.

Canadian Activists Targeted

Canadian anti-asbestos advocate Laura Lozanski, the health and safety officer for the Canadian Association of University Teachers, encountered Moore for the first time in 2016.

She connected him with other advocates to aid the fight to ban asbestos in Canada.

“He seemed to be quite legitimate, so we didn’t think anything of it,” Lozanski said of Moore.

Just a few months after their meeting, Lozanski learned of Moore’s involvement with the lawsuit in Britain.

Canadian anti-asbestos campaigner Kathleen Ruff feels especially betrayed after fighting for years for a ban on asbestos in Canada.

Moore won Ruff’s trust at the beginning of his espionage run. Ruff introduced him to executives at the Canadian Cancer Society and spent hours speaking with him and sharing her research, contacts and strategies.

She even helped Moore obtain official accreditation for the 2015 Rotterdam Convention, an international treaty promoting shared responsibilities in the importation of hazardous chemicals.

“The key thing in a war is to know your enemy, to know what they know and what they don’t know,” Ruff told CBC News.

Moore’s deception came at a crucial time in Canadian history because an asbestos ban is expected by 2018.

Asbestos-related diseases rank as the leading cause of occupational deaths in Canada, and unions and federal labor advocates have long fought for a comprehensive ban on the deadly mineral.


Beth Swantek has been writing professionally for 30 years. She is a former news reporter and anchor for a CBS affiliate in Michigan and often reported breaking medical and political news. Currently, she teaches media writing and video production at Lawrence Technological University in the Detroit area, as well as working as a freelance writer and producer.

  1. Mojtehedzadeh, S. (2017, January 10). Asbestos ‘spy’ targeted Canada, court documents claim. Retrieved from https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2017/01/10/asbestos-spy-targeted-canada-court-documents-claim.html
  2. Cobain, I. (2016, December 8). Corporate spy infiltrated anti-asbestos campaign, court told. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/dec/08/k2-corporate-spy-infiltrated-anti-asbestos-campaign-court-told
  3. Ireton, J. (2017, January 12). When imposters come calling: depth of alleged asbestos spy scheme dawning on activists. Retrieved from http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/ottawa/asbestos-spy-corporate-espionage-1.3930819

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