Prosecutors say David Smith, 58, from Paisley, became disillusioned with west and contacted Russian military
A security guard who worked for the British embassy in Berlin has pleaded guilty to passing secret material to a Russian military attache in a rare espionage prosecution.
David Smith, 58, faces up to 14 years in jail after admitting to passing on information about the staff and layout of the British embassy – and other secret material between May 2020 and August the following year.
The guard was caught in a sting operation and extradited back to the UK from Germany in April to be prosecuted at the Old Bailey under the Official Secrets Act. He pleaded guilty to eight counts a week ago, but this can only be reported now after a ninth charge was dropped by prosecutors.
A joint investigation by German and British security services concluded he had been selling information to Russia since spring 2020 after MI5 and its European counterparts trailed him for months.
According to the prosecution, Smith shared with Gen Maj Sergey Chukhurov, the Russian military attache, the identities, addresses and telephone numbers of various British civil servants between October and December 2020.
A police raid on Smith’s flat revealed he had taken photographs of staff security passes, organisational charts, posters and whiteboards in the embassy, and had shot a walkthrough video revealing some of the building’s layout.
Officers also discovered emails and documents marked “secret” – apparently prepared for passing to his Russian contacts – and €800 in cash which could not be accounted for. Police said Smith was living beyond his means.
Smith, originally from Paisley, Renfrewshire, had been employed at the embassy in Berlin as a security guard for about eight years. At some point, prosecutors said he had become disillusioned with the west and become a supporter of Russia.
At his flat in Potsdam, just outside Berlin, police found a Russian flag in the corner of the living room, a Russian navy crest on the wall and a Soviet military cap carrying the hammer and sickle emblem.
Officers also found a draft letter addressed to Col Sivov, a previous Russian military attache, dated 14 May 2020, in which Smith said he worked at the embassy and wanted to remain anonymous.
The guard then offered to provide a book from the embassy’s defence section marked “official sensitive”, and suggested the Russian “might be able to make use of it”.
Smith’s lawyer said prosecutors had exaggerated his motivations, and that his actions were of a disgruntled employee, not a spy.
Matthew Ryder KC, defending, told the hearing on 4 November that “the seriousness of the allegations are disputed by Mr Smith”, and that the security guard did not have any “negative intention against the UK”.
Prosecutors, however, argued that Smith could have acted differently if he was unhappy in his job. “If Mr Smith had merely wanted to lash out and express his frustrations, he could have provided different information,” the prosecution said.
They accused him of trying to damage the British embassy and the UK.
A trial of the facts to determine the length of Smith’s sentence is expected to take place in February next year. Smith will be remanded in custody until that hearing is concluded.

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