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British embassy guard in Berlin pleads guilty to spying for Russia

Prosecutors said David Ballantyne Smith, 58, was motivated to spy because of his hatred of the UK and its embassy.

A British man who worked at the UK embassy in Berlin has pleaded guilty to eight offenses under the Official Secrets Act related to passing on information useful to Russia.

David Ballantyne Smith, who lived in Potsdam, Germany and worked as a security guard at the embassy in Berlin, was extradited to the UK from Germany following his arrest by German police in August 2021.

The 58-year-old pleaded guilty to eight crimes on November 4.

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Judge Mark Wall lifted the restrictions on reporting Smith’s guilty pleas Friday after the prosecution indicated it will not seek trial on a ninth count to which Smith has pleaded not guilty.

Smith appeared at London’s Old Bailey last week and pleaded guilty to one count of passing information about UK officials to Major General Sergey Chukhurov, described in the prosecution’s indictment as the Russian military attache in Berlin, between October and December 2020.

He also admitted seven other charges related to gathering information that could be “useful to an enemy, namely the Russian state”, including material “related to the operation and layout of the British embassy in Berlin”.

Searches of his electronic devices found a draft of a letter dated May 2020 offering his services to a Russian diplomat.

Prosecutors said Smith, who is said to have lived beyond his means in Germany, was motivated by hatred of the UK and its embassy, ​​where he had worked for eight years, and had expressed sympathy for Russian authorities.

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They claimed that he was angry that the embassy waved the rainbow flag in support of the LGBTQ+ community.

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Smith’s attorney, Matthew Ryder, told the court that there is “a very big difference between (the prosecution) and Mr. Smith as to his motivation.”

“His intent and why he did what he did and the seriousness of the allegations as expressed by (the prosecution) are strongly disputed by Mr. Smith,” Ryder added.

Smith faces a maximum prison sentence of 14 years for espionage.

A hearing is expected to be held in February 2023 to determine the basis on which Smith will be sentenced.

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