March 4. 2024. 11:28

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British embassy guard who spied for Russia jailed for 13 years

A man who passed highly sensitive information to the Russian state while working as a security guard at the British embassy in Berlin was on Friday jailed for 13 years and two months in a London court.

David Ballantyne Smith (58) collected confidential information for more than three years, including “secret” government communications with then Prime Minister Boris Johnson and other sensitive documents.

Judge Mark Wall said the charges for which Smith was sentenced involved conduct between 2020 and 2021, but that his “subversive activities had begun two years before”.

Smith accepted sending two letters containing sensitive information to individuals at the Russian embassy in Berlin, however Wall added: “I am sure that, at some point in 2020, you established regular contact with someone at the Russian embassy.”

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“You were paid by the Russians for your treachery,” he told Smith.

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.

The 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 Britain.

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. – Reuters