Russian flags, Soviet military souvenirs and a John le Carré novel: Inside the flat of ‘Kremlin spy’ David Smith as British embassy security guard is quizzed by Germans over selling secrets to Moscow
- First photos have revealed inside the flat of David Smith, a security guard at the British embassy in Germany accused of passing secrets to the Russians
- A Russian flag sits in the corner of the room, while a Soviet officer’s caps adorn the top of a bookcase and the head of a stuffed dog toy
- Books on his shelves include John le Carre’s A Murder of Quality, conspiracy theorist David Icke’s The Trigger, and books on Nazi history
- Smith’s Potsdam flat also contains a number of cuddly toys and a PlayStation
The security guard arrested on suspicion of spying at the British embassy is an oddball fan of military and Nazi history with two Russian flags and at least three Soviet military caps in his flat.
The 57-year-old Briton – named locally as David Smith, who is overweight and drives a Ford Fiesta – lives in a rented one-bedroom ground floor flat in the city of Potsdam south west of Berlin.
Bookshelves in his flat visible from the window outside are 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.
His other books include the spy novel A Murder of Quality written by John Le Carre in 1962, and David Icke’s self-published book The Trigger which is full of conspiracy theories.
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.
One was sitting on the head of a cuddly toy Rottweiler dog on the floor while another sat proudly on display on top of a book shelf and a third was on his cream coloured leather sofa.
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’.
But the image of Smith as military-obsessed is undercut by a number of incongruous items and books – including three volumes on embroidery.
His flat also contains a collection of teddy bears and other cuddly stuffed animals, while a PlayStation sits on the floor alongside floral ornaments.
Many of the books on his shelves are also related to psychology, including volumes entitled ‘Guide to the Brain’, ‘Psychological Influence’, ‘Open subconscious’ and two books by SIgmund Freud.
Visible on a shelf close to the window are books on First World War history, several texts in German, and one book called Red Partisan – the memoir of a Soviet resistance fighter behind Nazi lines during the Second World War.
One book title reads: ‘Sex. The Complete Illustrated Guide.’
Other titles on his book shelves included A Military History of Germany, Für Volk and Führer: The Memoir of a Veteran of the 1st SS Panzer Division Leibstandarte, The Somme, Dieppe 1942, Berlin by acclaimed historian Antony Beevor, Fighters and Bombers, Eastern Front Combat, For The Homeland, Frontline Ukraine, and Red Road from Stalingrad.
Another book about Operation Bodenplatte told of the last ditch attempt by the Luftwaffe to attack Allied air forces in liberated Europe on January 1, 1945.
There was also a biography of Reinhard Heydrich, the high-ranking German SS and police official who was a principal architect of the Holocaust.
Another shelf seemed devoted to books on philosophy and psychology, alongside a framed insignia of Berkut, Ukraine’s special police force.
Lower shelves included books by Sigmund Freud, three books about embroidery and cross stitching and the framed insignias of Russia’s Baltic, Black Sea, Northern, and Pacific fleets.
The German newspaper Bild reported that Mr Smith drives a silver Ford Fiesta which was today still parked in a reserved parking place around 15 yards from the door to his block.
The car had a teddy bear on the front passenger seat next to a first aid kit which is a legal requirement for all motorists to have in their cars in Germany.
There was also a pair of black leather gloves on the back seat together with what appeared to be cleaning spray and a bottle of screenwash.
The Bild article joked about how the hatchback vehicle was very different from the Aston Martin sports cars favoured by Britain’s fictional spy James Bond.
It described Mr Smith as living in an ‘anonymous, modern new building’. The article added: ‘No Aston Martin is parked in front of it, but the spy’s Ford Fiesta.’
A young mother called Julia who lives nearby said: ‘There are a lot of families here. It is a lovely place to live. There are lots of open spaces and plenty of playgrounds for children.’
A nanny called Irma who works in the area, said: ‘This is a very peaceful and quiet neighbourhood. I feel safe here. It is very different to the centre of Berlin.’
German prosecutors announced yesterday that they had detained a man named only as ‘David S’ on suspicion of spying for Russian since at least November last year.
The Federal Prosecutor’s Office said: ‘On at least one occasion he forwarded documents obtained in the course of his professional activities to a representative of a Russian intelligence service.
‘In return for providing information, the accused received cash in a previously unknown amount.’
Smith is believed to have been arrested after being kept under round-the-clock surveillance by British and German security services.
It is believed that he had little access to secure computers inside the embassy and his duties were largely limited to processing visitors and security patrols.
But there are fears that his role may have given him the perfect cover to move through most areas of the building unchallenged.
Elsewhere he had a desktop computer and several loose papers on a table in his apartment in the quiet tree-lined street of Kiepenheuerallee, Potsdam.
His neighbours, who described him as being bald and stocky and around 5ft 9ins tall, were baffled to hear of his arrest for alleged spying and insisted that he lived a quiet life.
His flat – which is believed to cost around 1,200 euros a month to rent – is in a four storey block and has its own ground floor terrace overlooking two tram lines.
Outside the front door of the flat is a communal table tennis table, but neighbours said they had not seen him using it.
One said: ‘He is a very nice man, but he does not have a lot to do with people around here. I just exchange greetings when I see him.
‘He is always pleasant, and says, ‘Good Morning.’ I can’t really say how long he has lived here. I really don’t know. I did not realise he worked at the British Embassy.
‘People here are very private and do not ask each other’s business.’
Bild newspaper reported that police arrested Mr Smith at his flat at around 11pm on Tuesday and stayed searching the apartment until 4am.
There were no officers at the flat today and there was no sign that it had earlier been at the centre of police activity.
Mr Smith’s surname was written on his doorbell beside his front door and on the intercom buzzer for visitors to gain entry to his block.
The residents of the other 11 flats appear in the block all appear to be German.
The living room patio windows of Mr Smith’s flat are full of pot plants, and there are stick-on pictures of daffodils on another window at the property.
Most of the blinds and shutters at the flat were drawn today, but journalists were able to peer through a gap below a patterned frosted glass screen over one window.
Not exactly James Bond! Short, fat, bald security guard with ‘extreme right-wing views’ – who drives a Ford Fiesta not an Aston Martin – is revealed as man accused of being Kremlin spy in UK’s Berlin embassy
Details of the man at the centre of an international espionage scandal are beginning to emerge, with neighbours’ descriptions suggesting he’s no James Bond.
David Smith, a security guard at the British Embassy in Berlin, is accused of passing on classified terrorism documents to a Russian spy, it emerged last night.
In echoes of Cold War espionage, Smith received a bundle of cash in return for providing highly sensitive reports to a Kremlin agent, it is alleged.
The purported spy worked as a security guard inside the building and would have had access to the counter-terrorism tactics which would be deployed in the event of an attack.
Such details would be invaluable to enemy agents looking for weaknesses at an embassy in a city where Russian espionage is rife.
Smith was monitored by MI5, Scotland Yard and German intelligence for months before he was arrested at his apartment in Potsdam, a city near to Berlin, on Tuesday afternoon.
Smith’s neighbours told Germany’s Bild newspaper that he was a bald, stocky man of about 5ft 7 who left home early and returned late each day. He drives a Ford Fiesta, which was also searched by police.
They said that he had lived with a woman in the Potsdam apartment for some years, but they had not seen her recently.
There are fears Smith may have been susceptible to being blackmailed by agents working for Putin due to his alleged ‘extreme right-wing views’, The Sun reported.
Following his arrest, Smith was charged with ‘activity as an agent for a foreign secret service’ yesterday and appeared before a judge at the Federal Court of Justice in the south-western city of Karlsruhe. He was remanded in custody last night.
In a statement, the federal prosecutor’s office said: ‘On at least one occasion he conveyed documents that he had obtained in the course of his professional activities to a representative of a Russian intelligence service. In return for this information the suspect received a currently unknown quantity of cash.’
Prosecutors and intelligence services have evidence that Smith was passing secrets to the Kremlin from November last year – but suspect this could have been happening for months before this date.
Smith’s alleged spying took place during a period of heightened tension between Russia and the West, which was inflamed by the poisoning of Vladimir Putin critic Alexei Navalny last August.
Navalny was treated in a hospital in Berlin after he was poisoned with Novichok – the same nerve agent used during the Salisbury poisonings in 2018.
Last night British security sources played down the possibility of finding any direct link between Smith’s alleged activities and the poisoning of Navalny.
But the spying case is seen as part of a growing attempt by Russian spies to infiltrate Western intelligence operations in recent months.
Stung by the criticism over their treatment of Navalny – as well as the ongoing row over Ukraine – the Kremlin is known to have diverted intelligence resources to undermining Nato members.
Thomas Haldenwang head of Germany’s domestic intelligence service, said Russian espionage is now as active as it had been during the Cold War.
He added: ‘Methods are becoming rougher and the means more brutal.’ Questions will undoubtedly be raised about the vetting procedures at the British embassy in Berlin, which is still seen by Moscow as a prime intelligence target.
Smith, who was referred to as ‘David S’ by German officials, was understood to have been hired directly by the embassy – rather than through the Foreign Office in London.
The suspect was understood to have a permanent role inside the building – which sits just 500 yards from the Russian embassy in Berlin.
His role would have allowed him to obtain the shift patterns of senior diplomats and logs showing him who was inside the embassy at any given time.
As a security guard, he had information about the physical security of the building and measures taken to protect staff.
He would have been able to get hold of detailed plans of the building’s layout and its emergency exits.
Smith may also have been able to provide profiles of senior diplomats and their families, and possibly even names of MI6 officers stationed in the city.
Even seemingly mundane information can help a foreign intelligence service build a picture of an adversary and provide a way in to sensitive data.
After being monitored for months by security services, a warrant for Smith’s arrest was secretly issued on Wednesday last week. Following his arrest, agents have started searching his home in a post-war apartment block near Sanssouci, the old Prussian royal palace.
His office inside the embassy is also being examined.
The Potsdam area where Smith lives is home to politicians and millionaires, as well as former Stasi generals.
The Germans have evidence of what the documents Smith allegedly sold, but the extent of it will not be clear until forensic searches are complete.
He does not have diplomatic immunity and because of this he is expected to face trial in Germany.
Yesterday, Smith appeared at the Federal Court of Justice in Karlsruhe, Germany.
It came as officials in Britain suggested Smith would be ‘better off staying in Germany’ than being extradited to the UK due to the outdated terms of the Official Secrets Act.
A source told The Times: ‘It is extremely difficult to get prosecutions over the line in the UK. He might be better off staying in Germany.
‘They have strong powers there to keep suspects remanded in custody much longer.’
Last year then head of MI5 Sir Andrew Parker also said the 1911 Official Secrets Act was ‘dusty and largely ineffective’ amid calls for the act to be reformed, and Dame Cressida Dick said the Official Secrets Act should be ‘firmed up’.
According to the act, secret material must be a ‘sketch, plan, model, note or secret official password and code word’ rather than a document. This means Smith may not meet the criteria for prosecution if extradited to the UK.
At yesterday’s pre-trial hearing, which was conducted in private, a judge ordered Smith into ‘pre-trial detention’.
This is used in Germany when a suspect is accused of committing a serious criminal offence. It can last up to a maximum of six months before it is automatically reviewed by judges. A source told the Daily Mail last night: ‘It is really hard to say how much time the investigation will take because we need to get enough evidence for a trial.
‘But given the nature of the case, there is a real need to move quickly.’
Speaking about the allegations in Berlin yesterday, Germany’s foreign minister Heiko Maas said: ‘We take the information that the detained person’s intelligence activity was carried out on behalf of a Russian intelligence agency extremely seriously.
‘Spying on a close ally on German soil is absolutely unacceptable and we are in full solidarity with our British friends.’
Labour MP Chris Bryant, the chairman of the all-party parliamentary Russia group, told the Daily Telegraph the British Government ‘must review the security of all contractors at UK embassies as a matter of urgency’.
He described the arrest as potentially ‘one of the most serious security breaches at a UK embassy for many years’.
In a statement, the UK Home Office said: ‘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.’
Meanwhile, Nick Thomas-Symonds, the shadow home secretary, said the allegations potentially amounted to a ‘serious breach of UK national security’.
He added: ‘All measures must now be taken – urgently – to establish exactly what information has been passed to Russian intelligence and the impact this has on the UK, as well as that of our allies.’
And Conservative Chair of the Commons foreign affairs committee, Tom Tugendhat, told the BBC: ‘We’re not talking about some Kim Philby-type story; we’re talking about somebody relatively low down who has … possibly betrayed their country – we don’t know.’
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.
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.
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.
Note: the original article is packed with photos taken inside his flat. Link: