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A British newspaper said Sunday that media tycoon Robert Maxwell was a high-level agent for the Soviet leadership.

The Sunday Express said a secret document signed by the head of the KGB, only months before Maxwell's mysterious death at sea last year, showed he was a political and intelligence asset for the Politburo that ruled the now-defunct Soviet Union.Since Maxwell died last November going overboard from his luxury yacht, investigators have tried to trace hundreds of millions of dollars skimmed from the pension funds of his publishing companies.

The Sunday Express said the document showed the Soviet leadership had instructed the KGB security police and intelligence organization to protect Maxwell's personal reputation and his business activities.

"It is strictly forbidden to highlight the KGB's view of any activities pursued by Robert Maxwell," said the document circulated within the KGB and the Soviet Communist Party.