International praise for Simm's case

  • 2009-03-02
  • TBT staff in cooperation with BNS

Herman Simm was the first high profile case of treason since the restoration of independence.

TALLINN- The Economist has praised Estonia for its transparency in the Simm's caseand for the quick trial period.

"The way in which Estonia put Mr Simm openly on trial isstriking," the magazine reported, adding that in other countries thosecaught spying for Russia tend to be eased out discreetlyrather than being brought to justice publicly.

According to sources,Valery Zentsov, an officer of Russia's foreign intelligence service SVR,recruited Simm on his holiday in Tunisia in 1995.

Simm was neitherblackmailed nor bribed in the beginning. The offer was the reinstatement of hisSoviet-era rank of colonel.

Simm came under scrutinyafter his Russian handler, Sergei Yakovlev who used a Portuguese identity,tried to recruit a senior official in another country who reported it to hisown counter-intelligence. Under surveillance, Yakovlev was seen meeting Simm.

"That set alarm bellsclanging across NATO," The Economist says.

The difficulty was toobserve Simm closely enough to build a criminal case without sparking hissuspicion. Estonia's security service is getting muchpraise for this, which culminated in Simm's arrest last September.

Earlier allegations pointedto possible accomplices in other Estonian institutions. However, securitypolice have not found any evidence to support these claims.

"Let us stress -- allclaims to this effect are without any grounds whatsoever and speculative innature," security police spokesman Andres Kahar said.

It was revealed during theinvestigation that Herman Simm forwarded to the Russian foreign intelligenceservice background information on several Estonian citizens and stateofficials, but nobody was recruited nor any attempts made to recruit anyone onthe basis of that information, the spokesman said.