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By Crispian Balmer, Domenico Lusi
ROME (Reuters) – Italian police have found a stash of classified and highly classified military documents they believe an Italian navy captain gave to a Russian official in return for cash, a judicial source said on Friday.
Walter Biot, 54, was arrested on Tuesday in a Rome carpark. A police source said he had been seen handing information to a Russian military attache in exchange for 5,000 euros ($5,900).
The judicial source with access to the case files said police had recovered a memory card containing 181 photos classified as confidential, nine classified as highly confidential and 47 classified as secret documents from NATO.
Biot’s lawyer Roberto De Vita told an Italian newspaper that his client had told him that he had handed over information to Russia for money, but denied having leaked classified documents.
Biot appeared in court for the first time on Thursday but declined to speak. “He asked for time to collect his thoughts,” De Vita told reporters.
Interviewed later by Corriere della Sera newspaper, De Vita said that Biot had told him he was not ideologically driven and had never handed over “documents which could put Italy or other countries at risk”.
Italy, which has traditionally enjoyed better relations with Moscow than many other Western states, has expelled two Russian diplomats in retaliation and denounced the alleged espionage as a “hostile act”.