David Smith’s spying was said to have begun on March 9 2018 when he took the first of 69 files, including one video, using an LG mobile phone and a Sony DSC camera, saving them onto a USB stick under the name ‘Berlin holiday PicsNew.’

The files, discovered during searches after his arrest, included 29 pages of images of staff from the British embassy in Berlin, photographs of diplomatic passports, and photographs and names of the ‘defence section’ of the Berlin embassy.

On August 14 2018, Smith took 34 images on his phone of a booklet classified ‘official sensitive’, showing the ‘defence engagement strategy’, relating to Russia, Ukraine, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Libya, and liaison deployments with allied nations.

It was not until two years later, on May 14 2020, that Smith wrote a letter to a Colonel Sivov, a military attaché at the Russian Embassy in Berlin, later found on an SD card.

In it, he said he was an employee at the British Embassy in Berlin and that he would ‘like to send you this book from the defence section, classified as official-sensitive.’

‘I’m certain that you will be able to get it translated,’ he added. ‘Knowing the embassy, it will take some time before they even realise that it is missing.

‘Obviously, I would like to remain anonymous for the time being, but I do have further information, which I will send you later.

‘I hope that you respect what I have written and understand my reasons for you [sic] wishing to remain anonymous, since no one wishes to get caught.’

The first letter was not detected and it was only six months later, on November 17 2020, that a letter was intercepted which he had sent to a different official, this time to General Major Sergey Chukhrov, the military attaché in the Russian Embassy to Berlin,

The letter, in a British embassy envelope, written on embassy headed notepaper and addressed to ‘Dear Major General Ckukhrov,’ saying: ‘I hearby attach a small update to the British embassy in Germany.’

It contained what was described as ‘highly sensitive information’ about the British embassy, and those who worked within it, including names, home addresses and phone numbers.

It included images of security passes with the department the individual worked for written on the document by Smith.

There were also a number of documents of a ‘highly sensitive nature,’ written by someone referred to only as ‘ Diplomat X’ who was the lead officer dealing with Russia at the embassy.

Diplomat X had been based in Moscow for two-and-a-half years and was said to work on a daily basis with the German government to co-ordinate the international response to Russia’s ‘malign behaviour.’

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‘The potential importance of X to the Russian authorities could not have been higher,’ Alison Morgan KC, prosecuting, said.

One of the documents was a working note for an unclassified speech he was to give on relations between Russia and Germany that he had printed on a fifth-floor printer on October 9 2020, while working on the fourth floor, and left there by mistake.

There was also a visitor notification form dated September 9 2020 with details of senior German officials visiting that day, including one labelled as ‘Russian director.’

A handwritten annotation in German, read: ‘Visitors for a video conference sanctioned against Russia,’ written by Smith.


It was not until the middle of January 2021 that Smith was identified as the ‘prime candidate’ to be the author of the letter sent the previous November.

The letter had been posted in Potsdam and Smith was the only member of embassy staff who lived in the area.

However, by then he had almost certainly met officials in the Russian embassy – possibly by walking in and making an approach – and had been paid for his services.

Analysis of Smith’s finances showed the absence of cash withdrawals suggesting he had an alternative source of cash.

Between January 1 2020 and November 25 2020, there had been a downward trend in the balance of the account and an overdraft of at least 200 euros

However, from January 2021 onwards, there was a notable decrease in the number of transactions coming out of the account.

Between the start of February 2021 and the beginning of May 2021 there were no cash withdrawals at all.

An image was taken on Smith’s phone on February 5 2021 of a white envelope containing five 100 Euro notes which had been sent to his wife on the Telegram messaging platform and then deleted.

There was no corresponding withdrawal of cash from Smith’s account around the same time to account for the money.

During the search of Smith’s home address, another 800 euros were found, in 100 Euro denomination notes, bringing the total he was paid to at least 1,300 Euros, although prosecutors believes that was ‘just the tip of the iceberg’ of what he had been paid.


In June 2021, Smith used a Goextreme Impulse camera to film nine videos which made up an hour-long ‘walk-through’ video of the embassy, revealing information that was so sensitive the judge had to view it in private.

Smith filmed the majority of the embassy, including the names on office doors, at times filming out of windows in order to locate where a room was in relation to the street.

Prosecutors said the filming with ‘quite deliberate’ and had probably been ‘tasked’ by the Russians to identify specific rooms and make the location clear.

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At one point, Smith could be seen opening a drawer and rifling through documentation to find a copy of a letter to the prime minister about ‘sensitive trade matters’, returning later to film it more thoroughly.

The letter, classified as ‘secret,’ was sent to Boris Johnson, then the Prime Minister, from Liz Truss, the Secretary of State for International Trade, and Alok Sharma, then the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy on November 23 2020.

Ms Morgan said the letter was one of the documents highlighted in the ‘harm’ category for the judge.

For some documents Smith filmed, he turned the pages and scanned from top to bottom so the viewer could see their detailed content, including a document on defence which was over 80 pages long.

Police only found the material after Smith’s arrest, along with images on the Sony camera, also taken in 2021, including a photograph of a white board relating to staff deployments in Berlin and images of communications equipment.

Further images showed the itinerary of a British military officer for a visit to Germany in June 2021 and a letter from the Australian ambassador to Germany to the British ambassador, as well as names and contact details of Army and Royal Air Force exchange personnel in Germany.


After intercepting the letter to General Major Chukhrov, the British and German authorities launched a joint operation targeting Smith.

MI5 installed covert cameras placed inside the security kiosk at the embassy and used a trained ‘role player’ called ‘Dmitry’ posing as a ‘walk-in.’

On August 5 2021, Smith was approached by a member of the embassy staff who asked him to put a visitor to through security, personally, take his electronic devices off of him, then show him to an interview room.

Smith replied ‘oh, it’s one of those,’ suggesting he recognised the procedure for a ‘volunteer’ who had approached the embassy wanting to give information to the UK.

Smith added ‘you’ usually like us to ‘hang around just in case’ and mimed someone wrestling.

Dmitry arrived at the gate wearing a face mask, glasses and flat cap and carrying a copy of Die Welt newspaper.

Inside the newspaper was a clear plastic folder containing a Russian, open source report, marked up in pink marker pen, and a summary of its contents, deliberately written in bad English, along with a USB stick with some further documents saved on it.

After Smith let them into the room, they sat across a table from each other and spoke in Russian about various topics, including Dmitry’s welfare and how he was settling in Berlin, knowing that the room was not soundproofed.

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Dmitry told the embassy officer that he was tasked to monitor social media in the West about Russia, and had printed out the document about Russian influence in the Baltics as an example of a document that got ‘good feedback’ from Moscow.

When he left, he put his hat on, but deliberately left his face mask off and asked Smith if the security guard could throw away a SIM card and packaging for him, which had been given to him by the embassy employee.

Smith showed Dmitry out and as he opened the gate, patted him on the shoulder.

At 8.32pm, Smith returned to the security kiosk, having changed out of his uniform, and removed a small camera from one of his rucksacks.

The covert surveillance caught him looking at a computer monitor, reviewing the CCTV for about 10 minutes, then looking around him before lifting the camera to the computer screen to record the individuals on screen.

At 8.45pm he was heard muttering to himself: ‘This’ll do. I’ll get the rest tomorrow.’

The following day at 7.45pm, Smith returned to the security kiosk, again having changed out of his uniform.

He filmed the CCTV footage for another four minutes, before commenting to himself: ‘If he works at the embassy they’ll know him. It’s probably nothing, but at least I’ve done it.’

The next day, Smith was approached at a tram stop in Potsdam as he arrived home, by another MI5 role play officer, calling herself Irina.

After asking directions, she told him: ‘Mr Smith, it is you I have come to see.’

He looked nervous and asked ‘is this a joke?’ before adding: ‘Funny how you’ve got an English accent.’

As they sat on a bench, he told the officer: ‘I am going to say nothing because this has just been sprung on me. I cam going to speak to someone and once that person confirms, I will speak to you again.

‘I don’t trust the bastards I work for. Would you trust MI5 or MI6? For all I know you could be working for them.’

He told her all he saw was ‘run of the mill bulls**t’ but agreed to look at some photographs and to return and meet her at the Peter Pan cafe, two days later.

Smith told the undercover officer: ‘If you want the truth, I don’t want to be here anymore, I don’t want to be in Germany. I’m stuck in the land of Nazi bastards, they never change. I don’t like my job, I’m stuck because I can’t find anything.’

Smith was arrested by German police the next day.


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