A former British embassy guard sentenced to 13 years in prison for spying for Russia

Caught transmitting sensitive documents, David Ballantyne Smith, 58, had pleaded guilty.

By Le Figaro with AFP

Published 2/17/2023 at 12:22 PM, updated 2/17/2023 at 1:25 PM

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David Ballantyne Smith, 58, was sentenced to 13 years and two months in prison in London on Friday. sebra/stock.adobe.com

A former security guard at the British embassy in Berlin was sentenced to 13 years and two months in prison on Friday for spying for Russia.

David Ballantyne Smith, 58, who pleaded guilty, was caught sending sensitive documents to the Russian embassy in Berlin. “You established regular contact with someone at the Russian embassy, ​​and that contact enabled you to share documents that you had obtained illegally,” Justice Mark Wall said. “You were paid by Russia for your treason,” he added.

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“Dislike of the UK”

When the verdict was announced, the ex-soldier in a sweater and blue jeans looked focused, his hands clutching his helmet so he could hear the judge’s decision clearly. He had pleaded guilty to eight charges and in particular admitted breach of official secrecy.

During his trial, he justified his actions by wanting “to give the embassy a little slap in the face” because he felt they weren’t treating him well, but Judge Mark Wall dismissed his arguments. “I have come to the conclusion that the defendant’s main motivation for his actions was that he felt a dislike for the United Kingdom and wished to undermine the interests of that country by providing information to a state then, as now, considered to be.” unkind,” he said on Thursday.

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Videos from sensitive places

This man, who was married to a Ukrainian who returned to his country’s east in 2018 and was working at the British Embassy in Berlin, had been spotted by British and German authorities after he sent a letter in 2020 with the contact details of certain people from the British Embassy to a member of the military staff of the Russian Embassy in Berlin.

He also made several videos of sensitive areas in the embassy building, and 800 euros in cash were found at his home without being able to credibly explain the origin, the public prosecutor emphasized. A trap involving two fake Russian agents had been devised to catch him in the act and he was arrested in August 2021. Prosecutors had also pointed out that David Ballantyne Smith had “made anti-West and anti-NATO remarks to other staff members and reiterated his support” for Russian President Vladimir Putin.

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Investigators had found Russian memorabilia in his apartment, including a life-size stuffed Rottweiler dog wearing a Russian military hat. A caricature of Vladimir Putin with the head of former German Chancellor Angela Merkel was also found in his locker at his workplace.

The defendant, who was extradited to the UK in April 2022, said on Tuesday that he wanted to “teach the embassy a lesson” but had not been paid for it. “Now that I’ve had a year and a half to look back, I’m disgusted and ashamed of what I did,” he said.