German engineer sold secrets to Russia
MUNICH, Germany, June 16 (Reuters) – A Munich court sentenced a German engineer to 11 months probation on Monday for passing industrial secrets from helicopter maker Eurocopter to the Russian secret service.
The court said there was sufficient evidence to show that the 44-year-old engineer, who admitted passing on information, had provided the Russian foreign intelligence agency with details about the helicopters for more than two years.
However, the judge ruled that the accused, named only as Werner G., had not crossed the line into military espionage which would have led to a tougher sentence.
The case has highlighted growing worries about Russian industrial espionage activity which Germans worry could hurt business in Europe’s biggest economy.
Last month, the Germany’s domestic federal intelligence agency accused Russia of employing spies and Internet technology to obtain industrial secrets which could destroy German jobs.
Prosecutors had told the court the man took documents from Eurocopter, a division of the European aerospace group EADS, and passed them to a Russian intelligence agent whom he met several times between 2004 and 2006 in Germany, Austria and Croatia.
The judge said it was proven that the engineer had passed on manuals and other documents with technical details of several Eurocopter helicopters for about 13,000 euros ($19,970).
Defence lawyers argued the information was of relatively low-value and related to civilian, not military, helicopters.
“This was about the betrayal of military secrets, (but) in this case it never got that far because the accused did not want to, and indeed did not, step over that line,” said Judge Bernd von Heintschel-Heinegg.
In Germany, spying for a foreign secret service can result in punishment of up to five years in jail. The engineer’s cooperation with the authorities had helped to mitigate his punishment to an 11-month suspended sentence on probation.
A spokeswoman for Eurocopter said the case had caused no damage to the company.