Is this a spy’s wallet or marketing stunt?

By James Cook on October 7th, 2013

On a train in London this weekend, a Reddit user named “g113” claimed to reach under his seat to find something incredibly bizarre.

Under his seat was, apparently, a bespoke, skull-lined wallet, filled with duplicate driving licenses with different names, a metal tool, five £50 notes and the business cards of important figures in the UK intelligence services. A thick plastic card was also in the wallet, it reads “Cabinet Office” and has a magnetic strip on one side.

The photograph of the mysterious wallet that was uploaded to Reddit.

The photograph of the mysterious wallet that was uploaded to Reddit.

Amateur internet sleuths got to work, identifying the metal tool found with the wallet as a Southord lockpicking device.

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According to the man who discovered the wallet, there are three UK driving licenses, each with a different name but the same photograph.

One of the business cards inside the wallet belongs to Andrew Black, the CEO of technology firm Navanti. According to a document marked “Unclassified” on Navanti’s website, Black previously worked with the Department of Homeland Security, the Office of Naval Intelligence and the Department of Energy as a counter-terrorism analyst.

The wallet itself is a bespoke Bond and Knight creation. According to the man who claimed to have found the wallet, inside it is an inscription reading “With strength and guile”, a derivation of the Special Boat Service’s motto “By strength and guile”. The Special Boat Service is the British Naval Service’s special operations division, forming the United Kingdom Special Forces along with the SAS, SRR and the SFSG.

While the collection of items claiming to have been found is certainly mysterious, there could be a thoroughly mundane explanation. A careful examination of the £50 notes in the original photograph reveals thin black lines on the edges, indicating that they have been poorly forged. The unmodified and brand new lockpick certainly doesn’t appear to be the tool of a professional. In addition to this, Reddit users pointed out that the text on the driving licenses doesn’t appear to be raised, making it seem as though the cards are also merely printed out.

Was the wallet an elaborate piece of viral marketing by a wallet making company? The Kernel called the wallet manufacturers Bond and Knight, asking whether the mysterious wallet was a marketing stunt. The comments on the original Reddit post placed emphasis on how nice the wallet was, and another user posted a link to the Bond and Knight website.

When asked whether his company was behind the wallet, a Bond and Knight spokesman replied with the following:

Not that I know of, I don’t think that my marketing guy would do that sort of thing.

Eventually the man who claimed to have discovered the wallet began to panic, asking people on the internet for advice. First he wanted to keep it, then he wanted to burn it. After internet sleuths warned him that keeping it is illegal and could be dangerous, he contacted the police late on Sunday night.

I took it to the police, they made rather a big deal about it and I have to come in to speak to some unit tomorrow afternoon

Late on Sunday night, the post was updated. It seems that the police came to collect the wallet from g113. The Kernel received a message from him shortly before he deleted his account on Sunday night:

I have to meet first thing in the morning, someone is coming from another department! That’s all I know.

With the original account now deleted, it’s unlikely that we will hear anything more about the mysterious wallet. Was this a spy’s lifeline or a backfiring viral stunt? It’s likely that we will never know.