A former security guard at the UK’s Berlin embassy who spied for Russia has been jailed for more than 13 years under the Official Secrets Act.
David Ballantyne Smith, 58, was caught in a sting operation after passing sensitive material to the Russian embassy in Germany for more than three years, including “secret” government communications with former Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
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Judge Mark Wall said on Friday that the charges were related to conduct between 2020 and 2021, but that Smith’s activities had begun “two years before”.
Smith accepted sending two letters containing sensitive information to individuals at the Russian embassy in Berlin.
Wall said in court, addressing Smith, “I am sure that, at some point in 2020, you established regular contact with someone at the Russian embassy.
“You were paid by the Russians for your treachery.”
Wall told Smith his culpability was “high” and put staff at the embassy at risk of harm.
Smith pleaded guilty in November to eight offences under the Official Secrets Act, including one charge relating to passing information to General Major Sergey Chukhrov, the Russian military attache to Berlin, in November 2020.
Seven other charges involve collecting information which might be useful to Russia, four of which relate to an MI5 officer posing as “Dmitry”, a Russian national who was supposedly providing assistance to the UK.
Smith made a copy of a document Dmitry had brought and kept a SIM card packaging with the defector’s phone number on it, rather than destroying it as he had been instructed.
Later in his security kiosk, Smith was shown on covert film using a small camera to record about 45 seconds of CCTV capturing Dmitry’s visit saying, “If he works at the embassy, they will know him.”
Earlier this week, Smith told the court he was ashamed of what he had done and said he had filmed the documents after drinking “seven pints of beer”.
He added that it “seemed like a good idea at the time” but said he did not pass the documents on to anyone as “it would be knowingly damaging the UK.”
But the judge rejected Smith’s evidence that he felt remorse, saying, “Your regrets are no more than self-pity.”
Wall said Smith was motivated by his anti-British and pro-Russian views, which were “the direct cause of your offending”.
“I am sure that you committed these crimes intending to assist Russia, a state which at that time, as now, was regarded as unfriendly to the United Kingdom,” the judge told Smith. “Your motive in assisting them was to damage British interests.”
He also dismissed Smith’s evidence that he committed the offences when he was struggling with his mental health.
“I see no logical causal link between depression and a decision to betray your country,” Wall said.