Monday 19 August 2019

German spy 'got €100,000 for passing secrets to CIA'

Defendant Markus R at the start of his trial in Munich
Defendant Markus R at the start of his trial in Munich

Jarn Poltz in Munich

A 32-year-old former German spy has been accused of earning almost €100,000 for passing hundreds of pages of classified information to the CIA.

Markus R, whose last name wasn't revealed in line with German privacy laws, admitted at the opening of his trial at Munich's state court that he acted out of boredom and frustration.

He is accused of treason, violating Germany's official secrets regulations and corruption - charges that carry a penalty of one year to life if he is convicted.

The case heightened diplomatic tensions between Germany and the United States - already fraught because of reports about US surveillance of Chancellor Angela Merkel's mobile phone - and led Germany to request the removal of the CIA station chief in Berlin.

Prosecutors allege that Markus R passed classified material to the CIA between 2008 and 2014 in return for payment of €95,000. The information reportedly included lists of current and former German agents working abroad and their aliases.

The defendant, who has physical disabilities, told the court that he joined Germany's foreign intelligence agency BND by chance, after randomly sending applications to several companies and government bodies. "At the BND I had the impression that I wasn't considered very capable," he told the court. "With the CIA it was different. One could prove himself."

Markus R added that he felt the CIA appreciated his work. "I would lie if I said that I didn't like that," he said.

He was arrested in 2014, shortly after sending an unencrypted email to the Russian consulate in Munich offering three BND documents.

He received the money from a handler named as Craig during meetings in Salzburg and other Austrian cities, prosecutors said.

Known as Uwe to his handlers, who included a CIA agent named Alex, Markus R provided the Americans with details on the BND's structure, key activities, deliberations and collaboration with foreign spy agencies, prosecutors told the court.

They said the CIA gave him a laptop with a special email programme, which he used to provide the agency with almost weekly updates.

In mid-2014, Markus R also handed over three documents to the Russian consulate in Munich, they said.

Wearing a dark grey suit, Markus R appeared shy as he answered questions put forward by the judge. He grew up in former East Germany with a locksmith father and a mother who worked as a precision mechanic. He had an interest in computers.

Arrested in July last year, he was charged on August 11 this year on two counts of treason, breaking official secrets and corruption. The trial is expected to last until March.

Irish Independent

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