Christopher Steele, a former British intelligence officer, has been identified in reports as the author of a dossier that claims Russia collated a file of compromising information on Donald Trump.
Steele, 52, who runs London-based Orbis Business Intelligence, was widely named as having compiled the dossier, which contains unverified allegations that Russian security officials have material on Trump including lurid sex videos that could be used to blackmail him.
Steele, a former MI6 officer, is one of two directors of Orbis, according to UK company records, along with Christopher Burrows, 58.
The Telegraph said Steele left his home on Wednesday morning as it became clear his name would become public and that he feared a backlash from Moscow.
The other director, Burrows, refused to “confirm or deny” that Orbis had produced the report.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Steele repeatedly declined requests for interviews in recent weeks, with an intermediary telling the newspaper the subject was “too hot”.
A neighbour said he was away for a few days, the Wall Street Journal said.
Orbis describes itself as being able to “provide strategic advice, mount intelligence-gathering operations and conduct complex, often cross-border investigations”.
Its website says it was founded in 2009 by former British intelligence professionals and utilises a “global network” of experts and “prominent business figures”.
The firm, based in Grosvenor Gardens, close to London’s upmarket Belgravia area, says it “draws on extensive experience at boardroom level in government, multilateral diplomacy and international business to develop bespoke solutions for clients”.
“Our tailored approach means the directors are closely involved in the execution and detail of every project, supported by an in-house team of experienced investigators and professional intelligence analysts,” it says.
Burrows formerly worked for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office as a counsellor, according to his LinedkIn profile, with postings to Brussels and Delhi in the early 2000s.
The dossier has been circulating in Washington for some time as media organisations, uncertain of its credibility, held back from publication. After it finally became public Donald Trump gave a press conference on Wednesday where he hit out over its release and angrily denied the contents.
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Reports on Tuesday said the Orbis report was given to US intelligence in 2016 and, after being investigated, formed the basis of a two-page addendum to the US intelligence chiefs’ presentation last Friday to Trump of a classified report on Russian interference in the elections.
The report attributed to Steele says Russia’s intelligence services, directed by President Vladimir Putin, sought to support Trump and hurt his rival Hillary Clinton in the 2016 US presidential election.
It said the Trump campaign maintained regular contact with Russian officials and operatives, and that Moscow held compromising materials on Trump that could be used to pressure him.
None of the content has been substantiated but US intelligence, through its own investigation, has also concluded that Putin ordered a campaign to support Trump against Clinton.
With the Press Association and Agence France-Presse