Ex-diplomat Raymond Poeteray didn't' spy while in HK, court told
Raymond Poeteray didn't spill secrets while working for Dutch consulate in HK, court told
Suzanne van der Erf at The Hague
A former Hong Kong-based diplomat accused of being part of a Russian spy ring was simply "gossiping" about colleagues and not passing secrets about them, his lawyer has told a court in the Netherlands.
Dutch prosecutors however say it remains unclear how much damage was caused by the alleged spying of Raymond Poeteray, who worked at the Dutch consulate in Hong Kong between 2004 and 2008.
It was also revealed prosecutors are set to expand the scope of the investigation in Hong Kong.
Prosecutors say Poeteray passed secrets to Andreas and Heidrun Anschlag, a German couple, for a number of years beginning in 2005. The Anschlags, who were arrested in Germany last year, have been linked to Anna Chapman, the Russian sleeper agent who became a media sensation after her deportation from the US in 2010.
Dutch prosecutors say memory sticks found on Poeteray when he was arrested show they had been used on computers belonging to the Anschlags and Russia's SVR - the successor to the KGB.
"The suspect made attempts to copy detailed information for the Russians, such as a database with information on the status of foreigners in the Netherlands and an internal list of phone numbers," prosecutors said.
Poeteray, who, as in previous hearings did not speak, listened attentively to the allegations, but otherwise appeared emotionally indifferent.
"He also passed on sensitive information about colleagues to the SVR, such as their sexual orientation and possible health issues," the court heard.
Poeteray's lawyer argues the prosecution must present clearer evidence. "Yes, my client has been in contact with the Anschlags, because the couple were interested in purchasing a holiday home in the Netherlands."
The couple were merely curious about the background of some of Poeteray's colleagues, but it amounted to gossip and not spying, his lawyer said. Information about holiday homes found on the memory sticks may have contained additional documents, but they were accidently copied onto the stick.
The defence argues money Poeteray received on a monthly basis was generated by selling jewellery he had collected during his time as a diplomat in Asia. When he returned to the Netherlands his level of income fell, but the family continued to spend as if they were still in Asia, which lead to debt. To ease the financial burden, Poeteray sold pieces from his collection every month.
The prosecution says Russians instructed Poeteray to sell the jewellery to create a cover story for the regular payments he received from the SVR. Information about the holiday homes contains "coded terms", the prosecution says.
Poeteray has been remanded into custody until the next scheduled hearing in November.
During his time in Hong Kong, Poeteray was responsible for general management and consular affairs.
His work included visa procedures and the promotion of trade, investment and economic co-operation with Hong Kong and Macau.
Poeteray and his wife, Meta, made headlines worldwide in 2007 when their seven-year-old daughter Jade was handed over to Hong Kong's Social Welfare Department after "failing to bond" with her new family.
She had been adopted when she was four months old from an orphanage in Daegu, South Korea. The child was adopted again in 2008.