Listen to this article Italian Navy Captain Sentenced to 30 Years in Jail for Selling Secrets to Russia
A military tribunal has sentenced Italian navy captain Walter Biot to 30 years in jail after finding him guilty of selling secrets to Russia. The court ruling came on Thursday, March 9, 2023, following Biot’s arrest in 2021 while he was handing information to a Russian embassy employee in a Rome car park.
Arrest and Charges
They accused Biot of selling documents, including classified NATO documents, for 5,000 euros ($5,280). Italian authorities subsequently expelled two Russian diplomats, accusing them of involvement in the espionage operation. Biot’s lawyer argued that his client did not hand over any sensitive material and announced on Thursday he would appeal the verdict. The military prosecutor had sought a life term.
The prosecutor claimed, “Biot engaged in secret trade and we caught him in the act.”He further added that “he displayed a high degree of disloyalty and criminal ability, but also sorry greed.” A court had detailed some of the allegations against Biot when it rejected his request to be freed pending the trial. It said he had given his Russian contact a memory card that contained 181 photographs of documents and images from his computer. The court reported that they had labeled 47 of the documents as “NATO secret” and 57 as “NATO confidential.”
Allegations and Accusations
Italian media reported that among the documents were information about the war on Islamist militants in Libya and Syria. Prosecutors claimed that Biot was caught on three separate occasions in March 2021, taking pictures with his phone of the images displayed on his office computer screen. At the time of his arrest, Biot had the rank of a frigate captain but was working at the defense ministry department tasked with developing national security policy and managing relations with Italy’s allies.
Furthermore, Biot’s lawyer contended that his client did not possess any ideological motivations and had never handed over any documents that could endanger the security of Italy or any other countries. Additionally, the defense argued that Biot was tempted by the possibility of financial gain and had no intention of harming national security.
The case has raised concerns about the security of classified information and the risks of espionage operations in Italy. It also highlights the growing tensions between Italy and Russia, as well as the wider international community, over allegations of cyber-attacks, disinformation campaigns, and other forms of malign activity. The court unequivocally and forcefully sent a message that it will not tolerate such behavior and that individuals who engage in such actions will face consequences by finding Biot guilty.