Secret Agent Discovered Dead in Paris in Pool of Vomit Found to Possess Encryption Key and Classified Documents

Paris Police Tape
Illustrative: Police tape cordoning off a crime scene in Paris, France; authorities are investigating the death of an Italian secret agent in the French capital. MATTHIEU ALEXANDRE/AFP/Getty Images

Authorities in France have opened an investigation into the death of an Italian secret agent in Paris, identified only as Massimo I. He was found dead in a hotel on Monday, lying in a pool of vomit with a bloody wound on his chin.

French magazine Le Point reported that French police had recovered an encrypted security key from a safe inside the hotel room that was rented by the member of the Italian intelligence services. Agence France-Presse said that classified documents were also found inside the safe, which contained several USB sticks and the equivalent of $2,239 in 20 euro notes.

The Italian Embassy in Paris said it believes the 50-year-old secret agent died of natural causes. The gaping wound on his chin may have been caused during a fall, investigators said.

Anonymous sources confirmed to AFP that Massimo I. was a "high-ranking civil servant in Italian intelligence." A business card found on his body identified him as working for the presidency of Italy's council of ministers, headed by Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte. Both Italy's internal and external security agencies fall under Conte's remit. It is not clear which of Italy's many intelligence services Massimo I. worked for.

The Italian secret agent was discovered when emergency services personnel were called to his room in the early hours of Monday morning. At 1:30 a.m., firefighters attempted to resuscitate him but were unsuccessful.

Massimo I. had checked into the hotel in Paris' Montmartre district, in the French capital's 18th Arrondissement, on May 3. The initial investigation revealed the Italian spy arrived in Paris from Rome, flying into the city's Charles de Gaulle Airport.

The opening stages of inquiries have been handed over from local police and the technical and scientific police. The investigation will be led by the judicial police as Paris' public prosecutor opens an official probe into the cause of death.

Just over one month ago, Daniel Forestier, a former French intelligence agent, was discovered shot in the head and heart in the French Alps. The 57-year-old had been shot five times and was discovered in a car park in the town of Ballaison, near Lake Geneva on the border with Switzerland, AFP reported.

Forestier, a spy with the DGSE, the French equivalent of the CIA, was charged in 2018 with criminal conspiracy and possession of explosives in connection with a plot to murder an exiled Congolese general.