Former security guard at the British embassy in Berlin sentenced to 13 years in prison for espionage

A former British embassy guard in Berlin who has admitted leaking classified material to Russia has been sentenced to 13 years and two months in prison.

David Ballantyne Smith, 58, was convicted Friday after pleading guilty to eight charges under the Official Secrets Act related to offenses committed between October 2020 and August 2021.

Speaking at the Old Bailey in London, Judge Mark Wall told Smith: “You committed these crimes to help Russia, a state then, as now, seen as unfriendly to the UK. Their motive for helping them was to damage British interests.”

“It was your job to make sure the embassy was safe and its staff safe,” Wall said. “That was the most obvious breach of trust placed in you.”

Prosecutor Alison Morgan KC told the court earlier this week that Smith held anti-British and pro-Russian views and had written two anonymous letters to the Russian embassy in Berlin.

In November 2020, he sent sensitive details from British Embassy officials to General Major Sergey Chukhurov, the military attaché at the Russian Embassy in Berlin.

The court heard that Smith, who started working as a security guard at the British embassy in 2016, had also amassed a stash of confidential material, including videos showing the building’s layout.

This footage was later recovered from his home, along with a memory card containing photos of a whiteboard showing staff deployments in Berlin and the itinerary of a British military officer who visited Germany in 2021

Morgan told the court that Smith, who is married to a Ukrainian, received significant amounts of money that could not be explained by a legitimate source of income.

David Ballantyne Smith captures video from CCTV monitors

A handout issued by British Police shows David Ballantyne Smith taking video of the CCTV monitors at the British Embassy © Metropolitan Police/PA

Smith was caught in an undercover sting by British intelligence in August 2021, in which an agent disguised as a Russian visited the embassy and pretended to be an informant helping Britain.

Smith filmed CCTV footage of the man’s embassy on his cell phone and took an additional photocopy of his documents.

Morgan, the prosecutor, told the hearing that photos of Smith’s Potsdam apartment showed him owning a Russian flag, as well as a dictionary of Russian profanities and a caricature of President Vladimir Putin showing the head of Angela Merkel, the former German Chancellor. held.

Smith contested part of the prosecution’s case and denied receiving any money or having any negative intentions towards the UK, claiming his actions were only intended to “embarrass” his employer.

The court heard evidence about the facts of the case to determine Smith’s motivation. Wall ruled Thursday that Smith would be sentenced on the basis that he had an “ongoing relationship” with someone at the Russian embassy and was being “paid for his treason.”

Smith testified Tuesday that he was “depressed” because his wife returned to Ukraine in 2018, adding that he felt “ignored” by embassy staff when he asked for help with mental health issues.

He said he had been “lonely” in Berlin and had been drinking regularly, adding that his actions were aimed at showing “the lack of security” at the British embassy. He denied receiving any money for information and said he made extra money selling military memorabilia at German flea markets.

“I’m disgusted with myself. . . I had a small complaint and wanted to embarrass the embassy. I didn’t realize I would do so much damage,” he told the court.

But Wall told Smith Friday he “dismisses any suggestion that you have any remorse for your actions.” Your regrets are no more than self-pity.” Former security guard at the British embassy in Berlin sentenced to 13 years in prison for espionage

Adam Bradshaw

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