Karlsruhe/London (dpa) – An employee of the British embassy in Berlin has been arrested for allegedly acting as an agent for Russia. The Briton would have obtained documents for a Russian secret service in exchange for money, the federal prosecutor announced on Wednesday.
An investigating judge of the Federal Court of Justice in Karlsruhe would decide on the same day whether the man, who is 57 years old according to British information, will be taken into custody. In London, the responsible Home Office confirmed the arrest, which led to joint investigations by German and British authorities.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Berlin emphasized that it was taking the matter very seriously. “We cannot accept intelligence spying on a close ally on German soil,” a spokesman said. “We will therefore closely monitor further investigations by the federal prosecutor’s office.”
According to the authorities, the man is urgently suspected of being an agent of the Secret Service. He would have been working for the secret service since November 2020 at the latest. At least once he submitted this material, which he encountered during his work. It is still unclear how much money he received for it. According to the federal prosecutor’s office, officials from the federal investigation team arrested the suspect in Potsdam on Tuesday. The man’s home and workplace were also searched.
The case is explosive for the government in London. Bilateral relations with Russia are bad and the tone is sharp. Just a few weeks ago, an incident occurred: Russian border guards tried to throw warning shots and bombs off course a British warship off the annexed Crimean peninsula in the Black Sea. Britain also accuses Russia of ordering the poison attack on double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Salisbury, England in 2018. Moscow is also blamed for the poisoning of ex-Russian agent Alexander Litvinenko in London in 2006.
“A person who worked as a local government employee was arrested yesterday by the German authorities,” the British Home Office said. The authority initially gave no further information. “It would not be appropriate to comment further as the police investigation is ongoing,” it said simply. Local employees are employees who are not seconded by the government from their home country, but are hired locally.
Britain’s opposition Labor party used the case to accuse the government of failing to ensure national security. The post of Secretary of State responsible for security has been vacant for more than a month. “Today’s events raise the question of who in government is doing the important work to ensure the safety of the British public,” said Labor interior expert Conor McGinn. It is incomprehensible that Prime Minister Boris Johnson has not yet found a new Secretary of State. “Either he’s forgotten or he thinks it’s not that important,” McGinn scolded.