Arrest of David Smith, 57, on suspicion of spying for Russia prompts calls for review of embassy contractors.
Scotland Yard officers have been involved in the case of a British embassy employee arrested in Germany on suspicion of spying for Russia for “a number of months”, the Metropolitan police commissioner has said.
A 57-year-old British national, David Smith, was detained on Tuesday after a joint investigation by British and German authorities. He is understood not to be a diplomat but a private contractor working as a security guard at the Berlin embassy and therefore does not hold diplomatic immunity.
The German federal prosecutor’s office said the man was suspected of selling documents obtained during the course of his work to “a representative of a Russian intelligence service”.
Asked about Met police involvement in the case, Dame Cressida Dick told LBC radio: “We have been involved for a number of months in the Met. It’s a very good example of international co-working. We’ve been working closely, of course, with the German authorities, the BKA [German federal police], and the prosecutors, and of course with the UK government.
“Somebody has been arrested, suspected of involvement in what they call intelligence agent activity. We will continue to work closely with them and through the next steps.”
She added: “If this person is charged, we will support any trial, wherever that may be. At the moment the Germans are most certainly handling it.”
The incident has prompted calls for a security review of UK embassy contractors.
The Conservative MP Tobias Ellwood, the chair of the Commons defence select committee, called on the government to review the security of all contractors working at UK embassies, which he described as “standard protocol following such an incident”, adding the incident was a “disturbing throwback to the cold war days”.
But the former national security adviser Peter Ricketts said the UK should not overreact, after calls for a review of embassy security contractors in light of the Berlin arrest.
Lord Ricketts, who was security adviser to David Cameron, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “It tells me that we’re probably not looking at highly classified information being passed to the Russians – a security guard would not have access to that.”
The suspect is alleged to have worked for a Russian intelligence agency at least since November 2020, and is suspected of at least once passing on documents he had acquired through his work to a handler. He is alleged to have been paid a cash bribe to pass information to Russian intelligence.
Citing prosecutors’ circles, the German news magazine Focus reported on Wednesday that the information passed on related to counter-terrorism issues.
He was under surveillance by British and German investigators, believed to have included MI5, but officials were reluctant to discuss when that started.
Article written by: Jamie Grierson
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