A British guard who allegedly hated his country has admitted to spying for Russia when he worked at the British embassy in Germany and now faces up to 14 years in prison.
David Ballantyne Smith, 58, would have liked to live in Russia or Ukraine at the time he passed on classified intelligence to Moscow from May 2020.
Despite living beyond his means, when he was arrested in August last year, 800 euros (700 pounds) in cash was found at his home in Potsdam, Germany.
Prosecutors alleged that he intended to hurt the UK and the British embassy where he had worked for eight years.
He is also said to have been angry about the rainbow flag waving in support of the LGBTQ+ community.
Photos of his living room showed Russian memorabilia, including a flag.
On his bookshelf were books on history and a novel by the late John le Carre, best known for his Cold War spy thrillers.
During a plea hearing at the Old Bailey, Smith, now with no fixed address, pleaded guilty to eight charges under the Official Secrets Act by committing an act harmful to the security or interests of the state.
David Ballantyne Smith, 58, (drawn in this court sketch in the Old Bailey) pleaded guilty to spying for Russia
David Ballantyne Smith, 58, is said to have been driven by an intense hatred of his own country and wanted to live in Russia or Ukraine when he passed on classified intelligence to Moscow from May 2020
Smith had Russian military memorabilia, including a Russian flag and uniform cap
The extent of Smith’s activities were set forth in the charges against him.
The first count stated that in 2020 he had communicated with Major General Sergey Chukhurov, the Russian military attaché from the Russian embassy in Berlin.
In it, he provided information about the activities, identities, addresses and telephone numbers of various British officials.
He gathered intelligence about the operation and layout of the British embassy in Berlin, which would be useful to ‘an enemy, namely the Russian state’.
Some of the material was classified as ‘secret’ and related to the activities of the British government and its German embassy.
On August 5 last year, he collected unauthorized photocopies of documents provided by a person known as Dmitry, as well as the packaging of the SIM card.
On August 5 and 6 last year, he also collected CCTV footage of Dmitry that “would be useful to an enemy, namely the Russian state.”
On the day of his arrest on suspicion of spying for Russia, Smith had left work early and complained of feeling ill, but was met by German police on arrival in Potsdam.
An examination of his electronic devices revealed images from the embassy and a draft letter to a Russian military attaché dated May 14, 2020.
In it, he confirmed that he worked at the embassy and wanted anonymity, as he offered a book classified as “officially sensitive.”
There were photos of security passes and personal information of the staff, ‘secret’ secret emails and documents, posters and whiteboards in the embassy.
Following an investigation by the British counter-terrorism police, a request for his extradition was made in November last year and he was returned to the UK in April.
In addition to finding cash in Smith’s home, he had expressed his hatred of the United Kingdom and Germany and condolences to the Russian authorities, the prosecutor claimed.
Smith’s pleas from last week can only be reported now, as the Crown said it would not seek a trial for a ninth count, which the defendant had denied.
Smith was arrested by German police in his apartment in Potsdam . on August 10
His attorney Matthew Ryder KC told the court that Smith’s plea was different from the charges.
He told the court: ‘There is a very big difference between the Crown and Mr. Smith about his motivation.
His intent and why he did what he did and the seriousness of the charges are disputed by Mr Smith.
“It is correct to say that there is a significant difference on the basis that Mr Smith has pleaded guilty, including the fact that he has no negative intentions towards the UK that the prosecution has charged him with.”
Understandably, Smith set himself up as a disgruntled employee rather than a spy and never intended his actions to help Russia.
Smith faces a maximum prison term of 14 years for espionage.
In 2020, former defense officer Simon Finch, 52, of Southport, admitted to revealing ‘harmful’ top secret details of a British missile system and is currently serving an eight-year prison term.