British embassy guard given 13-year jail term for spying for Russia

British embassy guard given 13-year jail term for spying for Russia

A former security guard at the UK’s embassy in Berlin was sentenced to 13 years in prison on Friday after pleading guilty of spying for Russia.

Judge Mark Wall said David Ballantyne Smith, 58, was sentenced over his conduct between 2020 and 2021, but his “subversive activities had begun two years before”.

Smith “was paid for his treachery and he was motivated by his antipathy towards this country and intended to damage this country’s interests by acting as he did”, the judge said.

He said the only reason the former guard did not resign from the embassy job he hated was so that he could continuing feeding Russia secrets.

During the trial, the court heard how Smith collected confidential information for more than three years, including secret government communications and other sensitive documents.

But an undercover operation was launched and two role players posed as a Russian defector, Dmitry, and a Russian intelligence officer, Irina.

Smith was caught filming CCTV footage of Dmitry’s visit to the British embassy, took a copy of a document he had brought and kept packaging from a mobile phone sim card he was asked to dispose of.

Days later when he was accosted by Irina about someone passing on information “damaging” to Russia, Smith said he needed to “check with someone” before speaking to her.

Smith pleaded guilty in November to eight offences under the Official Secrets Act, including one charge relating to passing information to Gen Maj Sergey Chukhrov, the Russian military attaché to Berlin, in November 2020.

The seven other charges involved collecting information which might be useful to Russia, four of were linked to Smith’s liaisons with the MI5 officer posing as “Dmitry”.

Born in Paisley in Scotland, Smith spent 12 years in the RAF before moving to Crawley in West Sussex and getting jobs at Gatwick Airport.

Commander Richard Smith, head of the Metropolitan Police’s SO15 counter-terrorism command, said in a briefing at Scotland Yard that “analysis of [David’s] devices found images including a large number of photographs of British embassy employees, in some cases with their names”.

Britain is not the only country to be affected by alleged Russian spying activities, with incidents in recent years reported in the US, Hungary, Austria, Sweden, Bulgaria, Germany and Italy.

Repeated concerns have also been raised over cyber attacks and disinformation campaigns on social media linked to Russia.

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