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German agent sent to jail for spying for CIA and Russians

world Updated: Mar 18, 2016 14:41 IST
German intelligence agent

Markus Reichel, a former employee of the German intelligence agency BND, arrives for his trial at a court in Munich on Thursday. (AFP)

A Munich court has handed down an eight-year prison sentence to a German former intelligence agent who spied for both the CIA and the Russian secret service because he wanted to “experience something exciting”.

Markus Reichel had admitted to handing over “scores of documents and internal information” to the CIA, including names and addresses of agents for the Federal Intelligence Service or BND, in exchange for 95,000 euros ($107,000).

Some 200 of those documents sent to the CIA were deemed very sensitive, and even included papers detailing the BND’s counter-espionage strategies.

The 32-year-old also delivered three classified documents to the Russian secret service.

Reichel’s case had emerged during a furore over revelations of widespread US spying in documents released by former CIA intelligence contractor Edward Snowden, which had also plunged its partner service the BND into an unprecedented crisis.

Partially disabled after a botched childhood vaccination, Reichel, who speaks haltingly, had admitted that he had spied for foreign services out of dissatisfaction with his job at the BND.

“No one trusted me with anything at the BND. At the CIA it was different,” he told the court at the opening of his trial in November.

Not only did the CIA offer “adventure”, the Americans also gave him what he craved – recognition.

“I would be lying if I said that I didn’t like that,” he told the court. “I wanted something new, to experience something exciting.”

After finishing his studies at a training centre for the disabled in 2004, Reichel had struggled to find a job until late 2007, when the BND offered him a position in its personnel division.

As a member of staff in the lowest salary band, he drew a monthly net pay of 1,200 euros.

The CIA did not pay him significantly more – he received between 10,000 and 20,000 euros a year in cash at a secret meeting point in Austria, but it gave him a thrill, he said.

Using the undercover name “Uwe”, Reichel first sent documents to a US agent codenamed “Alex” by post before later transmitting them by email and later directly entering them into hidden software on a computer provided by the CIA.