Monday, September 20

The spy of the British embassy: discreet, staff and collector of Russian flags

The security guard of the British embassy in Berlin arrested on suspicion of handing over secret documents to Russia he lived in a two-room apartment in a neat building in the city of Potsdam.

David Smith was arrested at your home this Tuesday. It is very likely that the belongings in his apartment are one of the focuses of the ongoing investigation, which seeks to find out if Smith has sold documents to a “representative of the Russian intelligence service.”

Smith’s neighbors have little to say about the 57-year-old Briton. A woman reading while sitting on her garden terrace, a couple of doors away from Smith’s apartment, says only that he was “very reserved.”

The German police left the house unprotected, allowing the public to easily snoop through the half-closed blinds.

It will be the detectives who determine if what is inside the property has any relevance to the investigation. They will also examine the selection process that led to Smith’s hiring at the embassy, ​​where he began working last year.

Russian flags

The photographs published this Thursday in various media show Russian flags and military objects from eastern Ukraine. There is also a mug with the flag of New Russia, the name adopted by the separatist republics of Donetsk and Luhansk.

In the photos you can clearly see a badge of Bérkut, Ukraine’s special police unit, idolized by the opposition in Kiev after repressing protesters during the protests. EuroMaidan protests in 2014.

In a library rests an insignia of the so-called Somali battalion, a separatist military unit that has the support of Russia. The organization has fought against the Ukrainian government and participated in the battle for Donetsk airport in 2014. Many of its fighters, who used nom de guerre such as Givi and Motorola, were frequently featured in the Russian state media.

On a shelf is a sailor hat that is part of the uniform of the Black Sea Fleet, based in Sevastopol. The city, along with the rest of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula, was annexed by Russia in 2014.

The objects seem to reveal an interest for a certain period of history. Undoubtedly, his possible connection to espionage will be part of the investigation carried out by the German authorities.

There was little in Smith’s apartment – which costs between € 700 and € 800 to rent, based on current market prices – that made it stand out from others in the building: plastic plants in the windows, colored knives hanging by the kettle resting on the kitchen ledge, a partition that separates the kitchen from the living room. A PlayStation, stuffed animals – including a bear in a Mexican hat and a Doberman – and some plastic flower arrangements are visible through the window.

Embassy employee

Although Smith was originally said to be working in Berlin as an independent contractor, it later emerged that he had been employed “locally” and directly by the British embassy.

Although the embassy outsources some security tasks to the Securitas company and the administration of the building to another called CBRE, both companies have categorically denied that Smith was on their payroll. “Securitas does not know the individual arrested,” says a company spokesman to The Guardian.

Selection processes for local embassy hires are typically shorter than those for UK-resident civil servants and senior diplomats representing the country abroad.

Smith was arrested “on suspicion of acting for a foreign intelligence agency.”

Section 99, paragraph 1 of the German criminal code mainly applies to espionage against Germany, but can be expanded to cover allied states in relation to the NATO Troop Protection Act. Therefore, the suspect could be tried in a German court.

German law criminalizes the act of “communicating or providing facts, objects or knowledge” to a foreign intelligence service, thus it covers more than the UK Official Secrets Act, which specifically condemns the sending of a draft, plan, model, note, secret official password or code word.

German law allows Smith to remain in detention before the start of the trial, while his actions are investigated and the accusation against him is formalized.

Translation of Julián Cnochaert