By Sam Tobin; Edited by News Gate Team
- Smith collected sensitive information for over three years
- Included details about embassy and its staff
- Judge says ex-guard was paid for ‘treachery’
LONDON, Feb 17 (Reuters) – A former security guard at the British embassy in Berlin who passed highly sensitive information to Russia and was paid for his “treachery” was jailed for more than 13 years in a London court on Friday.
David Ballantyne Smith, 58, collected confidential information for more than three years, including a “secret” letter from ministers to then-prime minister Boris Johnson and other sensitive documents.
Judge Mark Wall said Smith was motivated by his anti-British and pro-Russian views.
“You certainly intended to help Russia by committing these crimes, I’m sure of it. You helped them with the intent to harm British interests, “said the court.
“You received payment from the Russians for your betrayal.”
Wall gave Smith a prison term of 13 years and 2 months at London’s Old Bailey.
According to the Official Secrets Act, Smith had admitted guilt to eight charges stemming from actions in 2020 and 2021. But according to the judge, his “subversive activities” started two years earlier.
Nick Price, head of the Crown Prosecution Service’s Special Crime and Counter Terrorism Division, said Smith was motivated by “greed and a hatred of our country”.
“That hatred was palpable and led him into engaging in what can only be described as really despicable behaviour,” he said outside the court.
Britain’s security minister Tom Tugendhat described Smith as a traitor.
“He betrayed us all and put our embassy and our country at risk,” he said on Twitter. “I’m grateful to MI5 and their amazing officers, the police and our German partners for seeing him put on trial and sentenced.”
General Major Sergei Chukhrov, the Russian military attaché to Berlin, received a letter from Smith in November 2020 that contained “extremely sensitive information” about the embassy and its personnel, according to prosecutor Alison Morgan on Monday.
According to Morgan, the letter, which was written on stationery bearing the British embassy’s logo, included the names, residence addresses, and telephone numbers of diplomatic employees as well as documents written by the British embassy’s principal officer in charge of its relations with Russia.
A collaborative inquiry between British and German officials was launched as a result of the letter’s discovery; Wall referred to it as a “sting operation.”
The initial step in this process entailed having an MI5 agent masquerade as “Dmitry,” a Russian citizen helping Britain.
Later, “Irina” came up to Smith and asked for help because someone had “given information to the British and the information could be devastating to Russia,” she said.
When “Irina” asks Smith for assistance and if he will see her again in secret camera footage shown in court, he responds, “I need to speak to someone and then, once that person can then confirm things, I’m willing to meet again.”
Smith “could only have been referring to checking with someone at the Russian embassy to verify that she was genuine,” Wall claimed, adding that this was proof he had a constant relationship there.
The day after meeting “Irina” in August 2021, Smith was taken into custody. During a check of his Potsdam, Germany, home, a USB drive containing various images of embassy personnel and diplomatic passports was found.
Also, he recorded some private papers that he discovered in trays, including a letter that was marked “secret” that Liz Truss and Alok Sharma wrote to Johnson in November 2020.
After consuming “seven pints of beer,” Smith admitted to the court that he had filmed the documents because it “seemed like a good idea at the time,” but said that he was ashamed of what he had done.
Smith’s evidence of regret was disregarded by the judge, who said: “Your regrets are no more than self-pity.”
By Sam Tobin; Edited by News Gate Team