Soviet History Buff Jailed for Selling British Embassy Secrets to Russia

David Ballantyne Smith, the British security guard convicted of selling state secrets including details about embassy personnel and counter-terrorism to Russia while working for the U.K. embassy in Berlin has been sentenced to 13 years and two months in prison.

The sentencing judge was told how a raid on his home in Potsdam uncovered a Russian flag and various Russian military memorabilia, including Soviet-era military caps. He also had letters from Russian-occupied areas in Ukraine and several history books in Russian, implying he spoke the language.

Smith, 58, admitted to espionage, but denied being paid for it, after he was caught in an undercover sting operation straight out of a James Bond movie script. Men posing as Russian agents offered him big money for “highly sensitive information” which he had no way of acquiring in his capacity as a guard but which he promised anyway. He was also caught on secret tape and surveillance footage discussing friends at the Russian embassy in Berlin.

The classified information he did sell to Russia cost British taxpayers nearly $1 million according to his sentencing judge Justice Wall, who said Smith had developed “anti-British and anti-Western feelings” during his time in Berlin. Among the secrets he sold was information that could out British intelligence workers stationed in Berlin.

The embassy’s head of security Bharat Joshi, who testified at his sentencing hearing on Friday, said he put the embassy staff at “maximum risk” by selling their personal information he garnered from the embassy computer to the Russian agents. “The breach of trust, in particular disclosure of people’s personal information, has had a negative impact on staff morale and well being,” Joshi said, adding that the embassy staff were still dealing with “feelings of anger, betrayal and upset and concern at the implications of their details being shared with a hostile state actor.”

Smith’s lawyer said his client was sorry for the trouble, but was simply a disgruntled employee who meant no harm to the British state, but instead wanted to “inconvenience and embarrass” the embassy, according to the BBC. The lawyer added that he was suffering from depression at the time he committed the crimes.

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