A Belgian intelligence officer is suspected of giving Russia access to confidential information, raising fears European Union and Nato secrets could have been leaked.
A major in the ADIV, Belgium’s military intelligence agency, allegedly allowed a Russian agent in Serbia to see state secrets in 2016, De Morgen newspaper reported on Thursday.
Although an internal audit reportedly found he was not at fault, a parliamentary committee and federal prosecutors are investigating the incident.
The inquiry stems from a special operation to hunt down potential terrorists following Paris attacks of November 2015, which were organised by an Islamic State cell in Brussels. Belgian agents approached Serbian intelligence for information on refugees entering Europe through the Balkans.
But the ADIV’s counter-intelligence department suspected that a Serbian woman who allegedly received access to secret information as part of the operation was actually a Russian double agent.
Although the ADIV does not oversee EU offices and Nato headquarters in Brussels, the possibility remains that information from international institutions could have been compromised. An Estonian defence ministry official convicted of spying in 2009 was able to pass 386 EU and Nato files to Russia, some of which were confidential.
But De Morgan suggested that the major could have been accused as part of a power struggle within the ADIV. The allegations against him apparently come from an internal complaint.
Years of infighting between the agency’s intelligence and counter-intelligence staffs, the latter of which is mostly civilians, has led to a contentious reform plan that would phase out the rival departments.
The head of the counter-intelligence department, who opposed this plan, has himself been accused of illegally shredding sensitive documents.
While Serbia is lobbying for membership in the EU, it has also preserved good relations with Russia, which delivered two fighter jets to its fellow Slavic country last year and wants to supply natural gas there as well. Tens of thousands of Serbs came out to greet Vladimir Putin when he visited Belgrade last month.
The EU foreign service said in a memo there were now 250 Chinese and 200 Russian spies in Brussels, a German newspaper reported this month.
On Thursday, it was reported that the third Russian military intelligence agent suspected of poisoning Sergei Skripal in Salisbury had travelled to numerous countries around Europe.
Although there was no indication he was in Brussels, he visited Barcelona during the Catalonian independence referendum and Sofia during the suspected poisoning of an arms dealer. He also went to Prague, Geneva, Paris and Belgrade.