Pictured: The moment suspected British spy is led away in handcuffs

Moment ‘British spy’ was snared in his German home: Photo shows embassy worker accused of selling secrets to the Kremlin being led away in handcuffs

  • Suspected spy David Smith, 57, pictured in handcuffs outside home near Berlin  
  • He is accused of selling secrets to Russia and allegedly passed on documents 
  • Smith worked as a guard at the British embassy in the German capital, and was arrested after a long running investigation by UK and German security services

Pictures reveal the dramatic moment a suspected British spy was led away in handcuffs by police outside his home near Berlin after being accused of selling secrets to Russia. 

David Smith, 57, who worked as a guard at the British embassy in the German capital, was arrested at his flat in Potsdam after a long running investigation by security services in Germany and the UK. 

And more details about his past emerged – including his Ukrainian wife and a past job in the RAF. 

German prosecutors said the Briton, who has been held on remand, is suspected of being a secret service agent and spying for the Russian intelligence service since at least November. 

Before his arrest, he allegedly passed on documents he had received while at work over to the Russians, prosecutors said. 

Pictures, taken by a neighbour from a nearby balcony, show Smith dressed in a blue t-shirt with his hands in cuffs in front of a uniformed and plain clothes officer.

The neighbour, who asked not to be identified, said she took the picture shortly after 3pm on Tuesday. 

She said it was ‘obvious’ that Mr Smith was handcuffed in public and that this was an ‘unusual’ practice for German police. 

David Smith, 57, (left in the blue t-shirt) worked as a guard at the British embassy in Berlin and was arrested at his flat in Potsdam after a long running investigation by security services in Germany and the UK

She said: ‘He appeared to be in a plain silver van which was in a parking lot in the street. 

‘There were a lot of police and another man in civilian clothes. They were talking between themselves a lot. 

‘They took him out of the van and he was standing there, and then he got him back in the van. 

‘A short time later they took him out of the van again and led him around the corner to the area beside the flat. 

‘It was obvious he was in handcuffs. It is very unusual for German police to put people in handcuffs in public. 

‘That is when we heard some of the officers talking and saying that that they were going to have search the apartment. 

‘There was another black civilian van at the scene as well as a normal marked police car. Then after a short time he was returned to the van.’ 

The neighbour added: ‘I just thought it was very strange. This is a quiet area and it is unusual to see anyone being arrested.’

The neighbour, who asked to not be named, took the picture from a balcony in Potsdam

Last night it emerged that Smith, 57, once served in the RAF before becoming a private security contractor. 

He married a Ukrainian woman from Odessa around 20 years ago and they had a daughter together. The couple are understood to have separated. 

A Home Office source told MailOnline that Smith worked as a G4S-style guard at the Berlin embassy.  

The suspect ‘on at least one occasion passed on documents he acquired as part of his professional activities to a representative of Russian intelligence,’ the federal prosecutor’s office said in a statement. 

The Briton then received an unknown amount of cash in return, the statement said, adding that investigators have searched his home and office.     

Smith was reportedly being monitored by MI5 as his alleged activities ‘had been known about for some time’ and it was not a ‘snap arrest’, according to Sky News.  

The suspect worked as a ‘local hire’ at the embassy, which is a scheme available for UK citizens who want to work in Germany. It means that he was not a diplomat and therefore he does not have diplomatic immunity.  

Pictures of Smith’s flat purportedly show bookshelves crammed with Russian language books and military histories including two books about Hitler’s feared SS 12th Panzer Division which committed war crimes in World War Two.

A large Russian red, white and blue flag on a pole could be seen today propped up in the corner of Mr Smith’s living room with a smaller one on the floor beside a TV.

Soviet military caps showing hammer and sickle emblems on a red star surrounded by a wreath were also visible from the window.

Other memorabilia adorning the flat includes insignias of the Russian Baltic, Black Sea, Northern, and Pacific fleets, and a Russian military insignia – not fully visible – which partially reads ‘technical battalion’. 

Neighbours rarely saw Smith, but one said he once told her he had a military past.

The woman called Nina, who lives on the estate, said: ‘He would talk about being [in the] army and things like that but never showed us medals.

‘He seemed like a friendly man and loved learning about history such as that of Russia.’

On Wednesday afternoon, Smith appeared before an investigating judge at the federal court, who decided to keep him remanded in custody, reports Bild.    

The Attorney General stated: ‘On at least one occasion he forwarded documents that he had obtained in the course of his professional activity to a representative of a Russian intelligence service. In return for his information transfer, S. received cash in so far unknown amounts.’

As a security guard at the British embassy, Smith would have more access than other members of staff, Dr Victor Madeira, author of ‘Britannia and the Bear: the Anglo-Russian intelligence wars’, told MailOnline. 

First images have emerged revealing the inside of suspected Kremlin spy David Smith’s flat in Potsdam, Germany, which features a large Russian flag in the corner (left)

There is a Soviet officer’s hat on top of his book case, with Russian-themed memorabilia on the top shelf along with a badge of the Ukrainian special police

Several Cyrillic-language books adorn the shelves, alongside insignia of the Russian Baltic, Black Sea, Northern, and Pacific fleets

The British embassy ‘spy’ could have done a ‘lot of damage’, says intelligence expert 

 It has been revealed that the British man arrested in Germany on suspicion of spying for Russia and handing over documents for cash while working at the British Embassy in Berlin was a security guard.

The 57-year-old suspect, identified as David Smith, was arrested on Tuesday in Potsdam, west of Berlin, based on cooperative investigations by German and British authorities.

As a security guard at the British embassy, Smith would have more access than other members of staff, Dr Victor Madeira, author of Britannia and the Bear: the Anglo-Russian intelligence wars, told MailOnline.

For instance, Smith could have access to security patrol schedules, how to arm and disarm alarm systems as well as emergency contact numbers for all staff, Dr Madeira said.  

‘He could potentially even have access to classified areas, depending on his own security clearance,’ Dr Madeira, a Contributing Author at The Cambridge Security Initiative, told MailOnline. 

German online magazine Focus Online reported that he provided the Russians with documents containing information on counterterrorism. 

Dr Madeira, speaking about those reports, said: ‘The reports that Smith passed on counter-terrorism documents suggests that Moscow could be trying see how much the UK is helping Germany tackle Russian assassinations on their soil.

‘Russia could also be trying to find out what the UK and Germany may be discussing about counter-terrorism more generally, like the impact on Europe of the unrest in Afghanistan.’ 

He explained: ‘The information doesn’t have to be specific to Russian activities in Germany to be of great interest to Moscow – information can be weaponised for influence operations of every kind.’ 

Before his arrest, Smith worked as a local staff member, otherwise known as a ‘local hire’ at the embassy, which is a scheme available for UK citizens who want to work in Germany. 

It means that he was not a diplomat and therefore he does not have diplomatic immunity.   

Foreign embassies in most countries rely in part on these ‘local hires’ to fill a variety of roles. 

The positions are often advertised on generic job search websites in the host country – and the identity of the employer is kept vague until applicants pass an initial screening process. 

Local hire positions in embassies are usually in fields such as media affairs, maintenance or visa processing which do not usually give access to classified information – or if they were, it would be limited.

But Smith could have been able to provide valuable information to Russia, such as WiFi passwords and staff lists including their addresses and mobile phones, Dr Madeira said. 

He could also have been able to form profiles of diplomats and MI6 officers stationed in Berlin.

Dr Madeira said ‘one of the biggest problems we have in the West is that we confuse seniority with access’. 

He said: ‘Just because someone is ‘just’ a driver, ‘just’ a messenger, is utterly irrelevant. Just because someone is a local hire and therefore not formally a foreign service officer or a diplomat, that doesn’t mean that the person couldn’t have done a lot of damage.

‘Anything – especially with cyber being so critical nowadays – from WiFi passwords, any sort of administrative lists like staff lists, addresses, mobile phones could be accessible. 

‘That would make it easier for the Russian intelligence services to track those mobile phones.

‘They would be able to identify who is a genuine diplomat and who is not.’

Dr Madeira warned: ‘There’s a real range of damage that a person like this could do. 

‘Let’s not confuse seniority, title or status with access. It’s incredible what someone who is teed up to look for certain things can pick up.

‘It’s a well-established, tried and tested method. Pretty much everyone does it.

‘Every country will try and recruit someone working in a hostile embassy.’ 

For instance, Smith could have access to security patrol schedules, how to arm and disarm alarm systems as well as emergency contact numbers for all staff, Dr Madeira said.  

‘He could potentially even have access to classified areas, depending on his own security clearance,’ Dr Madeira, a Contributing Author at The Cambridge Security Initiative, told MailOnline.  

German online magazine Focus Online reported that he provided the Russians with documents containing information on counterterrorism. 

Dr Madeira, speaking about those reports, said: ‘The reports that David [Smith] passed on counter-terrorism documents suggests that Moscow could be trying see how much the UK is helping Germany tackle Russian assassinations on their soil.

‘Russia could also be trying to find out what the UK and Germany may be discussing about counter-terrorism more generally, like the impact on Europe of the unrest in Afghanistan.’ 

He explained: ‘The information doesn’t have to be specific to Russian activities in Germany to be of great interest to Moscow – information can be weaponised for influence operations of every kind.’ 

Germany’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Christofer Burger said the German government took the spying allegations ‘very seriously’ and would follow the case closely, adding that spying on allied states on German soil is unacceptable.    

Russia’s embassy in Berlin said today: ‘The Russian Embassy in Germany to date does not have any official information received from the German side on this issue.

‘The embassy does not comment on press reports.’ 

Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) and Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) did not immediately reply to requests for comment. 

A Western security source said the motivation of the British man was likely money. As a locally engaged staffer, he did not have access to highly classified material, the source said, adding Britain’s MI5 counter-intelligence service was involved in catching him. 

The Briton’s arrest is the result of a joint investigation by the Metropolitan Police’s Counter Terrorism Command and their German counterparts. The investigation was ‘intelligence-led’, which means that investigators would have taken their time to gather evidence.   

Foreign embassies in most countries rely in part on these ‘local hires’ to fill a variety of roles. 

The positions are often advertised on generic job search websites in the host country – and the identity of the employer is kept vague until applicants pass an initial screening process. 

Local hire positions in embassies are usually in fields such as media affairs, maintenance or visa processing which do not usually give access to classified information – or if they were, it would be limited.

But Smith could have been able to provide valuable information to Russia, such as WiFi passwords and staff lists including their addresses and mobile phones, Dr Madeira said. 

He could also have been able to form profiles of diplomats and MI6 officers stationed in Berlin.

Dr Madeira said ‘one of the biggest problems we have in the West is that we confuse seniority with access’. 

He said: ‘Just because someone is ‘just’ a driver, ‘just’ a messenger, is utterly irrelevant. Just because someone is a local hire and therefore not formally a foreign service officer or a diplomat, that doesn’t mean that the person couldn’t have done a lot of damage.

‘Anything – especially with cyber being so critical nowadays – from WiFi passwords, any sort of administrative lists like staff lists, addresses, mobile phones could be accessible. That would make it easier for the Russian intelligence services to track those mobile phones.

‘They would be able to identify who is a genuine diplomat and who is not.’

Dr Madeira warned: ‘There’s a real range of damage that a person like this could do. Let’s not confuse seniority, title or status with access. It’s incredible what someone who is teed up to look for certain things can pick up.

‘It’s a well-established, tried and tested method. Pretty much everyone does it. Every country will try and recruit someone working in a hostile embassy.’

The British embassy in Berlin is just around the corner from the iconic Brandenburg Gate and a short, 250-metre (273 yard) walk from the Russian embassy, which is on the famous Unter den Linden boulevard.   

Before his arrest, he worked as a local hire at the British Embassy in Berlin and allegedly passed on documents he received at work to the Russians, the prosecutors said. Pictured: File image of the British Embassy in Berlin

The Met Police said in a statement: ‘A 57-year old British national was arrested by German authorities on Tuesday, 10 August, as part of a joint investigation between the Met’s Counter Terrorism Command and German counterparts.

‘The man was arrested in the Berlin area on suspicion of committing offences relating to being engaged in ‘Intelligence Agent activity’ (under German law).

‘Primacy for the investigation remains with German authorities. Officers from the Counter Terrorism Command continue to liaise with German counterparts as the investigation continues.

The Met’s Counter Terrorism Command is responsible for investigating allegations and matters relating to alleged breaches of the Official Secrets Act.

A UK Government spokesperson told MailOnline: ‘An individual who was contracted to work for the government was arrested yesterday by the German authorities. 

‘It would not be appropriate to comment further as there is an ongoing police investigation.’

In May, Britain set out plans to crack down on hostile activity by foreign states, introducing a proposed law to give security services and law enforcement new powers to tackle growing threats. 

Security specialist Edward Lucas likened the arrest to an early spy novel by the British writer John le Carre.

‘The fact that the arrest has been made in Berlin suggests it’s a non-diplomatic member of the embassy, that’s why the German judicial system has been brought to bear on it,’ he told Times Radio.

Security specialist Edward Lucas (pictured) likened the arrest to an early spy novel by the British writer John le Carre

If the suspect was a diplomat, the British authorities would have been more involved, he added.

Lucas, a former foreign correspondent with The Economist covering eastern and central European affairs, said the arrest was ‘a reminder of how much effort the Russians put in to trying to find out what Western alliances are up to’. 

Germany has arrested a number of people in recent years accused of spying for Russia, but the capture of a suspect from a close ally is highly unusual. 

In June, a Russian man who worked at a German university was arrested on suspicion of espionage for allegedly passing information to Russian intelligence, German prosecutors said.

The suspect, identified only as Ilnur N., was arrested and his home and workplace were searched. 

Federal prosecutors said he worked as a research assistant for a science and technology professorship at a German university. They didn’t identify the university or specify where in the country he was arrested.

The man is accused of meeting at least three times with a member of a Russian intelligence service, which prosecutors didn’t identify, between October of last year and June. In two of those meetings, he is alleged to have handed over information on the university in exchange for an unspecified amount of cash.  

And German prosecutors in February filed espionage charges against a German man suspected of having passed the floor plans of parliament to Russian secret services in 2017.

Moscow is at loggerheads with a number of Western capitals after a Russian troop build-up on Ukraine’s borders and a series of espionage scandals that have resulted in diplomatic expulsions.

In June, Italy said it had created a national cybersecurity agency following warnings by Prime Minister Mario Draghi that Europe needs to protect itself from Russian ‘interference’.

The move came after an Italian navy captain was caught red-handed by police selling confidential military documents from his computer to a Russian embassy official.

The leaders of nine eastern European nations in May condemned what they termed Russian ‘aggressive acts’, citing operations in Ukraine and ‘sabotage’ allegedly targeted at the Czech Republic.

Several central and eastern European countries expelled Russian diplomats in solidarity with Prague, but Russia has branded accusations of its involvement as ‘absurd’ and responded with tit-for-tat expulsions.

British spy chiefs say both China and Russia have sought to steal commercially sensitive data and intellectual property as well as to interfere in politics, while Russian agents are also accused of carrying out an attack on former Russian spy Sergei Skripal on British soil in 2018.

The Scripals were poisoned after two Russian agents smeared the deadly nerve agent on the door handle of Mr Skripal’s home. Pictured: Russian agents Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov in Salisbury 

Yulia Skripal (left) and her double agent father Sergei Skripal, 68, (right) were poisoned with novichok on March 4 2019 

Beijing and Moscow say the West is gripped with a paranoia about plots. Both Russia and China deny they meddle abroad, seek to steal technology, carry out cyberattacks or sow discord.

The Berlin case has echoes of the shadowy world of espionage practised during the Cold War, when double agent Kim Philby and others in a ring of British spies known as the ‘Cambridge Five’ passed information to the Soviet Union.

The latest espionage case also comes at a time of highly strained relations between Russia and Germany on a number of fronts, including the ongoing detention of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, who received treatment in Berlin after a near-fatal poisoning.  

Relations between London and Moscow have been at a low point since the attempted poisoning of former spy Sergei Skripal in British Salisbury in 2018.

The Kremlin has denied any involvement in either case.

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government has moreover worked to maintain a sanctions regime over Moscow’s annexation of the Crimean peninsula.

And Germany has repeatedly accused Russia of cyberattacks and cyberespionage on its soil.

Despite the frictions, Berlin has pressed ahead with plans to finish the controversial Nord Stream 2 pipeline, set to double natural gas supplies from Russia to Germany. 

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