LISBON (Reuters) - Portuguese prosecutors on Thursday charged an employee of the national intelligence service, SIS, with spying for Russia, in a case that came to prominence last year when the man was arrested in Rome together with a Russian spy.
The public prosecutor’s office said it also charged the Russian, whom they described as an agent of the SVR intelligence service, although he has moved back to Russia after being released by Italy. It did not disclose the names of the persons accused.
“According to the accusation, the SIS employee was recruited by SVR so that, in return for payments in cash, he passed information covered by the state secret privilege to which he had access due to the nature of his work,” the statement said.
The two were arrested in Rome in May 2016 at the request of Portuguese authorities and with the help of Portuguese police. Portuguese media said at the time the arrested Portuguese citizen was suspected of passing sensitive information about NATO and the European Union to Russia.
The prosecutor’s office said the SVR agent had a hand-written document provided by the Portuguese man containing secret information, but would not say whether it was linked to NATO and EU affairs. On the SIS agent, police found 10,000 euros ($11,220) in cash, which they said he had received from the Russian.
An Italian court last July refused to extradite the Russian man to Portugal and he was subsequently released, returned to Russia and his current whereabouts were not known, the prosecutor’s office said.
The SIS employee was swiftly transferred to Portugal and put in preventive custody, which was later substituted with house arrest.
Portugal and Italy have only recently grabbed media headlines with another case involving international spying.
Portugal in March agreed to extradite a former U.S. spy to Italy in connection with the 2003 CIA kidnap of a terrorism suspect in Milan, but a last-minute presidential pardon in Italy prevented the move and set free Sabrina de Sousa, who has dual Portuguese-U.S. citizenship.
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Reporting by Andrei Khalip, editing by Axel Bugge, Larry King