UK embassy guard caught after spying for Russia: Prosecution

Smith has admitted to eight charges and London's Old Bailey criminal court is considering arguments ahead of his sentencing on Friday



Photo used for illustrative purpose only.
Photo used for illustrative purpose only.

By AFP

Published: Mon 13 Feb 2023, 9:44 PM

A British security guard at the UK's embassy in Germany who pleaded guilty to spying was snared in an elaborate sting after sending sensitive material to Russia, prosecutors said Monday.

David Ballantyne Smith, 58, has admitted to eight charges and London's Old Bailey criminal court is now considering arguments ahead of his sentencing on Friday.

Smith, who worked at the Berlin embassy for five years, pleaded guilty in November to violating the Official Secrets Act. The court was told that he was motivated by an intense hatred for his homeland.

Making their case for a strong sentence, prosecutors on Monday said Smith had sent a letter to a member of the military staff at the Russian embassy in Berlin.

In it, he had enclosed documents including names, home addresses and phone numbers of embassy staff.

After the UK and German authorities became aware of the letter, a plot was formed to try to catch Smith in the act.

Smith was told that a Russian citizen called Dmitry -- in reality a UK agent -- wanted to come to the embassy to pass on sensitive information.

Smith filmed CCTV footage taken of "Dmitry" inside the embassy and took packaging from a phone SIM that had been given to him by UK officials, instead of disposing of it as instructed.

Another contact pretended to be Irina, an agent with the Russian military's GRU intelligence service.

She tracked Smith down at a train station in August 2021, and persuaded him to talk to her on a bench in central Berlin.

She then showed Smith pictures of people supposedly of interest to the Russian authorities, including "Dmitry", but he did not say he recognised him.

Smith was arrested shortly after this meeting.

He was also found to have taken several videos of sensitive areas inside the embassy building, while prosecutors allege that he had 800 euros (around $857) on him that could not be accounted for.

Smith appeared in court on Monday wearing jeans and a blue jumper.

Prosecutors say Smith, who is married to a Ukrainian, was motivated by a hatred both for Britain and Germany.

"The defendant expressed views that were anti-West and anti-NATO to other employees and expressed support for (Russian President) Vladimir Putin," said prosecutors.

Smith will make his case on Tuesday, and is expected to argue that he was motivated by a desire to cause embarrassment to the UK rather than causing "prejudice or any disadvantage" to it.

Smith faces a maximum jail term of 14 years for spying.


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