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Europe: German Spy Agency Tricked Into Buying Stale Information

  • Roland Eggleston

Munich, 17 September 1997 (RFE/RL) -- Germany's foreign intelligence service, the BND, has once again been struck by scandal. This time the charge is that it paid two tricksters large sums of money for information from Russia which it already had.

Few details of the affair have been disclosed because the investigation is only in an early stage. But a spokeswoman for the Federal prosecutor's department confirmed that a senior official of the intelligence service and a former member of the service were detained last week on suspicion of fraud and possible espionage.

The senior official has denied any knowledge of the affair and is still in detention. Reports in the German media say the second man has provided some details and has been released on bail.

It is alleged that they collected items of information sent to BND headquarters in Munich from its agents abroad. These were rewritten and repackaged to appear new and then re-sold to the intelligence service as "information from Russian sources." The federal prosecutors declined to say when the alleged fraud began.

The spokeswoman said the present investigation is focused on 36 cases of alleged fraud. She declined any details about the type of information which was allegedly resold.

The BND's field of operations covers not only military intelligence but such criminal activities as the international drug trade, money-laundering, terrorism and illegal arms dealing.

It is also alleged that the men later attempted to sell some of the "recycled" BND information to non-German intelligence services. This is the basis of the investigation into possible espionage.

As is usual in a criminal investigation in Germany, the men's surnames have not been disclosed. One of them, a 48-year-old senior official, is identified only as Hans-Helmuth D. According to the weekly news magazine "Focus," which is known to have good sources in the intelligence service, he is a member of the analysis and evaluation section of the BND to which all new information is sent.

The other man is identified as the 49-year-old Alfred H. He formerly worked for the BND but is now employed by a bank. German reports say the senior official D. provided suitable material from the reports which crossed his desk daily. The man H. repackaged it and resold it to the intelligence service as information obtained from Russians.

According to some reports, the BND senior official, D. earned as much as 100,000 German marks from the affair.

The affair is the latest in a series of scandals which have damaged the image of the foreign intelligence service over the last 18 months. At the beginning of this year it became known that a few members of the intelligence service had sold secret information and personal dossiers to companies.

Another scandal erupted when it was disclosed that a former deputy chief of the service had provided information about matters inside the BND to a leading German political party.

Another issue was the role played by the BND in the smuggling of weapons-grade to plutonium from Russia to Germany in August 1994. The federal parliament in Bonn created a commission to investigate allegations that the BND had actually instigated the smuggling to highlight the lack of security at Russian nuclear installations. BND denied the allegations and said its only role was to pass on reports picked-up by its agents. The investigation was suspended without reaching a clear conclusion.

This affair led to the resignation of the former head of the intelligence service in March last year. His successor, Hansjoerg Geiger, took office with a pledge to weed-out bad elements and improve the image and reputation of the foreign intelligence service.