Germany considers extradition of Briton who ‘spied for Russia’

A former employee of the British embassy in Berlin suspected of spying for Russia faces being extradited to the UK, officials told AFP on Friday.

The British Embassy in Berlin.
The British Embassy in Berlin. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Britta Pedersen

The prosecutors’ office in Brandenburg was examining an extradition request from the UK government, as first reported by the German weekly Spiegel.

Referred to as David S. by prosecutors, but identified as David Smith by local media, he is said to have “passed on documents he acquired as part of his professional activities to a representative of Russian intelligence”, according to the federal prosecutors’ office.

Employed at the British embassy in Berlin, “the accused received a cash payment in an unspecified amount in return,” the prosecutor’s office said at the time of Smith’s arrest.

The suspect is said to have passed on information relating to both Britain and Germany to Russian intelligence, according to Spiegel, who reported that the man opposed his extradition.

His arrest in August was the result of a joint operation by British and German authorities.

READ ALSO: Briton accused of spying on Germany for Russia

He is the latest in a string of suspected Russian spies to have been uncovered in Germany.

In June, German police arrested a Russian scientist at a German university accused of working for the Russian secret service.

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

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

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German police under fire for using tracing app to find witnesses

German police drew criticism Tuesday for using an app to trace contacts from bars and restaurants in the fight against the pandemic as part of an investigation.

A barcode used for the Luca check-in app to trace possible Covid contacts at a Stuttgart restaurant.
A barcode used for the Luca check-in app to trace possible Covid contacts at a Stuttgart restaurant. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Marijan Murat

The case stemming from November last year began after the fatal fall of a man while leaving a restaurant in the western city of Mainz.

Police seeking possible witnesses made use of data from an app known as Luca, which was designed for patrons to register time spent in restaurants and taverns to track the possible spread of coronavirus.

Luca records the length of time spent at an establishment along with the patron’s full name, address and telephone number – all subject to Germany’s strict data protection laws.

However the police and local prosecutors in the case in Mainz successfully appealed to the municipal health authorities to gain access to information about 21 people who visited the restaurant at the same time as the man who died.

After an outcry, prosecutors apologised to the people involved and the local data protection authority has opened an inquiry into the affair.

“We condemn the abuse of Luca data collected to protect against infections,” said the company that developed the Luca app, culture4life, in a statement.

It added that it had received frequent requests for its data from the authorities which it routinely rejected.

Konstantin von Notz, a senior politician from the Greens, junior partners in the federal coalition, warned that abuse of the app could undermine public trust.

“We must not allow faith in digital apps, which are an important tool in the fight against Covid-19, to disappear,” he told Tuesday’s edition of Handelsblatt business daily.