By Ott Ummelas
A former high-ranking Estonian defense official has been jailed for 12 1/2 years for treason after he passed on secrets to Russian intelligence, in the Baltic state’s first spying case since independence in 1991.
Herman Simm, 61, admitted his guilt and was sentenced by the Harju County Court, prosecutors said today. It also ordered him to pay 20.2 million krooni ($1.7 million) in damages to the Defense Ministry and return 1.3 million krooni of “criminal revenue,” the Public Prosecutor’s Office said. Ove Ladva, Simm’s Lawyer, didn’t reply to calls seeking comment.
Simm, head of the ministry’s department for protection of state secrets from 2000 to 2006, was arrested in September after spying since 1995, prosecutors said in e-mailed statements today. His two contacts, Valeri Zentsov and Sergei Yakovlev, were officers in Russia’s SVR foreign intelligence service. Yakovlev, who worked under a false Portuguese identity, is internationally wanted, the prosecutors said.
Estonia, a former Soviet republic which regained independence in August 1991, joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the European Union in 2004 together with its Baltic neighbors, Latvia and Lithuania, a move strongly opposed by Russia.
Simm passed on 24 documents with different levels of confidentiality regarding Estonian state secrets and 362 documents containing classified information “on communication and information systems, data security, intelligence, counterintelligence and defence policy of foreign countries and international organizations,” the prosecutors said.
Simm may have passed secrets on the proposed U.S. missile shield and on defense against “cyber-attacks” to Russia, the Times of London reported on Nov. 17. Estonian Defense Minister Jaak Aavikoo dismissed the report as “speculative.”