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A Briton working at the UK embassy in Berlin has been arrested on suspicion of passing information to Russian intelligence, German prosecutors said on Wednesday.
The 57-year-old British citizen, identified only as David S., was arrested on Tuesday in Potsdam, a city southwest of Berlin, following a joint investigation by German and British authorities.
The German federal prosecutor’s office said he was a local official, not a diplomat, and was suspected of working for “foreign agents” since November. A person familiar with the investigation described the suspect as an “executor” at the embassy.
“At least once, he handed over documents he received in the course of his professional career to a representative of the Russian intelligence service,” a statement from Germany’s chief federal prosecutor’s office said. “The accused received a still unknown amount of money in return to pass on information.
The suspect’s home and workplace were searched and he faces charges of “intelligence activity” under German law.
MI5 – the UK’s domestic spy agency that led the British side of the investigation – tracked down the suspect for months before his arrest.
The German Foreign Ministry said the government took allegations of Russian intelligence operations in Berlin “very seriously”, adding: “Spying on a close ally on German soil is not something we can accept.”
In a statement, the Metropolitan Police Counter-Terrorism Command said that the German authorities were of paramount importance to the investigation, but that British officers would “keep in touch with German colleagues” as the investigations continued.
The Matt Counter-Terrorism Command is responsible for investigating allegations of alleged violations of the Official Secrets Act.
The UK Home Office confirmed that “a person who had been agreed to work for the government” had been arrested by the German authorities. “It would not be appropriate to comment further, as a police investigation is underway,” a spokesman added.
The suspect appeared in federal court in Karlsruhe on Wednesday, where he was detained. A British official said he was most likely to be tried in Germany instead of being extradited back to Britain.
During the Cold War, Berlin became a center for competing intelligence operations as the United States and its Western allies faced Soviet spies from the east.
Germany has been the subject of Russian covert activity in recent years. In June, a federal prosecutor arrested a research associate of a science professor at a German university on charges of passing information to a Russian secret service officer for a fee.
German authorities announced last year that the hacking of the Bundestag in 2015 was carried out by agents from Russia’s military intelligence services, which prompted Berlin to issue an arrest warrant for GRU agent Dimitri Baden. Moscow denies all allegations that it hacked foreign governments.
The most shocking incident was the 2019 assassination of a former Chechen rebel leader in Berlin’s Tiergarten Park. It’s the attacker in the process of litigation accused of murder under contract by “agencies of the central government of the Russian Federation.”
Britain’s tense relations with Russia have deteriorated following the 2018 assassination attempt on former Russian agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Salisbury. British police we blame Russian intelligence has planted the deadly nerve agent that caused the death of a British citizen who was infected with traces found in a perfume bottle.
Since then, the UK government has come under fire from the parliamentary intelligence and security committee for not allocating enough resources to counter the risk from Russia.
A report containing these criticisms was eventually published nine months after it was sent to the Downing Street Committee, prompting criticism that ministers suppressed its findings until after the 2019 general election.
Nick Thomas-Simmonds, Labor’s secretary of the interior, described the Berlin incident as “another example of the real threat from Russia”. He said it was “unacceptable that Conservative ministers are so slow to take the necessary measures to protect the UK, including implementing the recommendations of the Russian report”.