Berlin embassy guard extradited to Britain over espionage allegations in Russia

A security guard at the British Embassy in Berlin accused of spying for Russia has been extradited from Germany to Britain to face charges.

David Smith, a 57-year-old British national who was arrested by German police on August 10 last year, arrived in Britain on Wednesday. He is accused of gathering information at the British embassy in order to pass it on to a foreign state about a person he believed represented the Russian state.

“David Smith has been charged with nine felonies in violation of the Official Secrets Act,” said Nick Price, chief of the Attorney’s Office’s Special Crimes and Counterterrorism Division.

“He is charged with seven offenses including gathering information to send to Russian authorities, attempting to communicate and leaking information to a person he believed was a member of Russian authorities,” it added he added.

Price said the CPS, after reviewing the case, decided to obtain an extradition order and worked closely with its German counterparts to bring Smith back to the UK.

Delivery is the same week as one mass expulsion by Russian diplomats from European capitals amid outrage at Moscow’s aggression in Ukraine and growing concerns about spies posing as diplomats.

MI5 – the UK’s domestic intelligence agency which led the British side of the joint Anglo-German inquiry – had been involved in the investigation before his arrest last year.

A person familiar with the case said Smith allegedly collected certain documents marked “secret” but had no access to higher-ranking information. In the meantime, the security precautions in the embassy in Berlin have been strengthened.

“The case is a reminder that Russian espionage remains a risk,” said a British government official.

During the Cold War, Berlin was a center for competing intelligence operations as the US and its western allies faced off against Soviet spies from the east. However, Germany has remained a target of covert activities in recent years.

Last June, German authorities arrested a Russian scientist identified as “Ilnur N” for stealing aviation secrets and missile technology from research centers in Augsburg. His process continues.

In September, authorities also arrested a German Bundestag security worker who allegedly sold detailed blueprints of the building and its systems to the Russian military intelligence agency GRU.

Russia employs around 400,000 people in its three main intelligence agencies. The Defense Ministry’s “main directorate,” the GRU, has wide-ranging interests in NATO affairs and military technology. The FSB focuses on domestic intelligence, while the SVR is tasked solely with gathering foreign intelligence.

That’s what western officials say typically three types of Russian agents Work in Europe: Declared agents, often filling roles such as defense attaché, work for the GRU; undeclared agents who may be disguised by the SVR as members of a trade delegation; and illegals working undercover.

Germany on Monday expelled 40 Russian diplomats, part of a series of expulsions from the EU since Russia launched its attack on Ukraine on February 24.

Smith will appear in Westminster Magistrates Court for a preliminary hearing on Thursday. Berlin embassy guard extradited to Britain over espionage allegations in Russia

Adam Bradshaw

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