Spain has arrested a former intelligence officer on charges he acted as a doubleagent, selling other agents' secret identities and counterintelligence data to a foreign government, the country's spy chief said on Tuesday.
The intelligence chief, Alberto Saiz, did not identify the country doing the buying, but Cadena Ser radio said it was Russia. Saiz said the alleged espionage occurred between the end of 2001 and early 2004.
Saiz identified the former agent as Roberto Florez Garcia and said he was arrested on Monday in Tenerife, one of the Canary Islands.
If the country behind the scheme is indeed Russia, the revelation could become another point of contention between Western Europe and the government of Russian President Vladimir Putin, which is already locked in a dispute with Britain over the poisoning death in London of former KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko.
The Russian Embassy in Madrid and the Foreign Ministry in Moscow both declined to comment on the news report implicating Russia.
Saiz, the head of the National Intelligence Center, called the case unprecedented for the Spanish intelligence services. Even his news conference announcing the case was unprecedented, as Saiz and his predecessors had previously stayed behind the scenes.
An official at the National Intelligence Center said Florez Garcia had been a midlevel officer in the Civil Guard, a paramilitary police force that answers to the Interior Ministry but also has intelligence units involved in such tasks as fighting Basque separatist violence and Islamic terrorism.
Florez Garcia quit the Civil Guard in March 2004, the official said. He spoke on condition of anonymity because of National Intelligence Center rules barring his name from being published.
Saiz said Florez Garcia sold classified information including the identities of agents and data on Spanish intelligence procedures, internal structures and counterintelligence activities.
He said that neither the national security of Spain nor that of NATO or the EU had been compromised. Florez Garcia had been under investigation since July 2005, Saiz said.
The official at the intelligence center said the suspect approached a foreign government on his own and offered to sell classified information on Spanish intelligence.
Asked why a foreign government would want such information, the official said: "Spain is a country on the rise, being watched by many people. There are countries interested in knowing how we operate."
Under Spanish law, selling a foreign power classified information that could jeopardize Spanish national security is punishable by six to 12 years in prison.
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