British Embassy Spy Jailed For 13 Years For Passing Secrets to Russia

David Smith claimed he passed on state secrets to embarrass his bosses, but a judge said he was motivated by “hatred for the West”.
Max Daly
London, GB
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David Smith caught talking to fake agent "Irina". Photo: Metropolitan Police

A security guard at the British embassy in Berlin has been sentenced to 13 years for spying for Russia.

David Ballantyne Smith, 58, originally from Paisley in Scotland, admitted passing secret information to the Russian authorities after he was caught in a sting operation 18 months ago. 

To catch him out, police used fake Russian agents called “Dmitry” and “Irina” to request sensitive information, which he passed on in return for money. 

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Smith was caught filming the CCTV monitors. Photo: Metropolitan Police

Smith, sentenced under the Official Secrets Act at the Old Bailey on Friday, claimed to be depressed at the time and that he just wanted to embarrass his bosses, but prosecutors said his motivations were hatred for the West and the UK, as well as greed. 

Mr Justice Wall said suspicion was raised after police discovered Smith had been in contact with a military attache at Berlin’s Russian embassy. Although there was no evidence Smith was paid “life-changing amounts of money”, the judge told Smith: “You were paid by Russia for your treachery.” 

Smith passed on secret documents, including letters to then prime minister Boris Johnson, annotated photos of British embassy staff and footage of the inside of the embassy to the Russians. Personal details about embassy officials were stored on a USB stick file marked “Berlin Holiday Pics”, in an attempt to cover them up.

The judge told Smith: “You put those people at maximum risk” while “intending to assist Russia, a state at that time, as it is now, regarded as unfriendly to the UK”. 

While Smith’s sentence only relates to crimes committed after 2020, the judge said it was likely the former RAF man had been collecting and passing on information since 2018, two years after starting his role at the embassy. 

Speaking to the media outside the Old Bailey, Nick Price, head of the Crown Prosecution Service’s Special Crime and Counter Terror Division, said: “[Smith] abused his position in the British embassy in Berlin to covertly collect and pass sensitive information to the Russian state. These crimes were an attack on our country and could have threatened national security.”