A British man working at the UK embassy in Berlin has been arrested on suspicion of spying for Russia.
German prosecutors announced the arrest on Wednesday, identifying the suspect only as “David S” in keeping with German privacy laws, while British authorities confirmed an ongoing joint investigation into the man’s activities.
The suspect was arrested Tuesday in Potsdam as part of the joint investigation between German and British investigators, said the prosecutors.
“The accused is urgently suspected of having been working for a foreign secret service since November 2020 at the latest,” said the German prosecutor’s statement, describing at least one incident where the suspect forwarded documents to suspected Russian intelligence agents in exchange for an unknown amount of cash.
"Until his arrest, David S worked as a local employee at the British embassy in Berlin,” said the statement. "On at least one occasion he forwarded documents obtained in the course of his professional activities to a representative of a Russian intelligence service.”
The extent of the security breach or specifics on the suspect’s duties at the embassy was not disclosed, but he was classified as a “local hire” recruited from Berlin and not a career employee of the Foreign Office, according to German media reports.
A counterintelligence official in a country neighbouring Germany – who asked that their name or country not be used because of the sensitive nature of the intelligence accusations – said that neither Germany nor the UK had informed aligned intelligence service on the details of the arrest.
“I think [German investigators] would have asked for help if they were following a suspect from country to country – they’d have to brief us then – but for now they will withhold as many facts as they can at the request of the UK, which will be conducting its own frantic investigation to determine how much information was compromised.”
The Metropolitan Police and UK prosecutors have announced their participation in the investigation but have yet to release any details.
German officials pointed the finger at Russia – which already stands accused of dispatching a hitman in 2019 to kill a dissident in a Berlin park – for the breach in diplomatic norms but did not threaten any significant sanctions yet.
Foreign Ministry spokesperson Christofer Burger said the German government was closely following the case, according to the AP.
“We take the indications that the intelligence activity of the arrested man was carried out on behalf of a Russian intelligence service very seriously,” Burger said. “Spying on a close ally on German soil is not something we can accept.”
In May, the Czech government expelled dozens of Russian diplomats it said were undercover intelligence agents after an investigation determined likely Russian involvement in a string of mysterious explosions at an ammo dump in 2014.