British police have been working on the case of the Berlin embassy security guard suspected of spying tor Russia for “a number of months”, the head of Scotland Yard has said.
Metropolitan Police Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick said her officers were continuing to work closely with the German authorities on the investigation.
“We have been involved for a number of months in the Met,” she told LBC radio.
The 57-year-old man appeared in court in Germany on Wednesday following his arrest in a joint operation by the German and British authorities, including the security service MI5.
Officially he has been identified only as David S – in line with Germany’s strict privacy laws – although he has been named in British media reports as David Smith.
He is currently being held under German counter-espionage laws on suspicion of “intelligence agent activity”.
Prosecutors said he was suspected of working for Russian intelligence since at least November 2020, handing over documents in return for cash on at least one occasion.
Dame Cressida said that if charges are brought, the Met stands ready to support any criminal proceedings, “wherever that may be”.
She added: “At the moment the Germans are most certainly handling it.”
The case has led to calls from MPs for a review of the security arrangements for contractors working at UK embassies, amid fears that sensitive counter-terrorism operations may have been compromised.
The former national security adviser Lord Ricketts said the suspect was unlikely to have had access to highly classified information.
However, he said the case served as a reminder that the Russians continued to deploy traditional espionage methods to prise secrets from their rivals.
“We all think now about the Russians stealing secrets by hacking and providing disinformation by social media and so on – it is a reminder that the Russians haven’t given up also on the old-fashioned ways of suborning individuals through money,” he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.
He added: “I think the Russian intelligence threat to all our countries has grown again.
“It probably dipped at the end of the Cold War but it is absolutely back in all our countries, and so vigilance is essential, not only in these new areas but also in the old-fashioned areas of good physical security around embassies and ensuring loyalty in staff.”