Russian spy was motivated by ‘intention to harm the UK’ and pro-Putin views, court told

16 February 2023, 18:26

Smith in the security kiosk of the British embassy in Berlin
Smith in the security kiosk of the British embassy in Berlin. Picture: Metropolitan Police/PA

By Hannah Holland

A Scottish security guard at the British embassy in Berlin who gathered secrets about the UK to spy for Russia was driven by an “intention to harm the UK” and pro-Putin views, a court has heard.

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David Ballantyne Smith pleaded guilty to eight charges under the Official Secrets Act last year but returned to court for legal argument about his motivation.

Smith, from Paisley, Scotland, is alleged to have received a "substantial" amount of money in exchange for confidential and sensitive information while working as a security guard at the British embassy in Berlin.

Prosecutor Alison Morgan KC said that Smith was "motivated by a deliberate intention to harm the United Kingdom”.

Morgan said that Smith supported Russia and Vladimir Putin and that his flat contained memorabilia including a Russian flag and German uniforms from the second world war. Morgan described how Smith went from being "keen and polite" to expressing anti-UK and anti-German views, the court heard.

The former RAF serviceman told the court he was “disgusted” with himself but had not realised he was putting colleagues in danger, having confessed he became lonely after his Ukrainian wife moved back to her homeland.

READ MORE: British security guard at Berlin embassy charged with spying for Russia

READ MORE: Disgruntled security guard faces jail after admitting spying for Russia at British embassy in Berlin

The court heard he started collecting secret information from the embassy in 2018, which he stored on a USB stick. There were classified emails and documents, pictures of staff security passes and personal information and details of British personnel.

The information would have been useful for Russian intelligence to target embassy staff, the court was told.

Prosecutor Alison Morgan KC said that Smith was "motivated by a deliberate intention to harm the United Kingdom”.
Prosecutor Alison Morgan KC said that Smith was "motivated by a deliberate intention to harm the United Kingdom”. Picture: Alamy

A letter addressed to a military attache at the Russian embassy from 2020 was also found in which Smith offered a book classified as "sensitive". He allegedly wrote: "Knowing the embassy it will take some time before they even realise that it is missing.

"Obviously I would like to remain anonymous for the time being, but I do have further information which I will send you later."

Ruling on the case at the Old Bailey, Mr Justice Wall concluded Smith had told a string of lies in his evidence and was, in fact, a “dedicated” spy on the Russian payroll.

The judge said: “He had an ongoing relationship with someone at the Russian embassy, he didn’t just supply information to the Russians on two isolated occasions, and he was paid for his treachery."

“He was motivated by an antipathy towards this country, and intended to damage this country’s interests by acting as he did.”

Smith is alleged to have received a "substantial" amount of money in return for confidential and sensitive information while working as a security guard at the British embassy in Berlin.
Smith is alleged to have received a "substantial" amount of money in return for confidential and sensitive information while working as a security guard at the British embassy in Berlin. Picture: Getty

Smith was eventually captured as part of a sting operation where two British spies played Russian agents to try and win his trust.

Morgan told the Old Bailey at a sentencing hearing that he was "was plainly hedging his bets" when trying to work out if he could trust one of the British agents posing as a Russian spy.

After Smith’s arrest, he was extradited to the UK in April 2022, following a probe by British counter-terrorism police.

Smith faces a maximum of 14 years in prison. He will be sentenced on Friday.

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