Dutch Court Jails Former Civil Servant, Russian Spy

A former Foreign Ministry worker passed sensitive documents to Russian intelligence.

Red Square, Moscow in the fog, Russia, July 2010
Red Square, Moscow in the fog, Russia, July 2010 (Cea)

A former Dutch Foreign Ministry worker was sentenced to twelve years imprisonment in The Hague on Monday for passing hundreds of sensitive political and military documents to Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service.

Judges said that the former civil servant, Raymond Poeteray, had “perturbed and undermined the interests of the Netherlands and its allies” by passing information to a couple in Germany who are standing trial there for being Russian spies.

They also stated that Poeteray had acted “purely in the pursuit of profit.” Between January 2009 and August 2011, he was paid at least €72,000, money he used to pay off debts and buy luxury items.

Poeteray was arrested last year in connection with the German case as well as an American investigation into dozens of Russian agents. Prosecutors accused him of providing Russian intelligence with information about the European Union Monitoring Mission in Georgia, peacekeeping efforts in Afghanistan and Kosovo and NATO’s military intervention in Libya’s civil war in 2011 which Russia opposed.

The conviction came just two weeks after Russia’s president Vladimir Putin visited the northwestern European country in recognition of their strong trade relations. The Netherlands imports Russian oil and gas, often to sell it to other European nations, including Germany, and exports agricultural and industrial products to Russia. 30 percent of crude oil and 45 percent of oil products shipped through the port of Rotterdam originates in Russia.

On the eve of Putin’s visit, the Netherlands’ economy minister announced that the Dutch-Russian joint venture Shtandart had agreed to invest some €800 billion in the construction of another oil terminal in Rotterdam.

The Netherlands is the second largest natural gas producer in Europe, after Norway, but estimates are that it will have to import in as little as ten years’ time. If it is to remain a pivotal distributor of gas in Europe, it can ill afford to alienate the Russians.

At the same time, it is wary of the Kremlin’s political interference in energy markets and the maltreatment of Russian gays and international human rights organizations in the country.