German Spy Handed Suspended Sentence

A Munich court on Monday convicted a German engineer of selling plans for Western helicopters to a Foreign Intelligence Service agent and handed him an 11-month suspended sentence.

The Munich Higher Court ruled that the engineer, identified as Werner Franz G., was guilty of spying for Russia but granted leniency because he cooperated with the investigation and assisted in the arrest of his Russian contact in Austria last year, the court said in an e-mailed statement.

Prosecutors had asked for a one-year suspended sentence.

Various sources have identified the engineer as Werner Greipl, a former employee of Eurocopter, the helicopter subsidiary of European aerospace giant EADS.

Sources have also identified his Russian contact as Vladimir Vozhzhov, a one-time trade attache at the Russian Embassy in Vienna and former official at the Federal Space Agency.

Vozhzhov was arrested last June in Salzburg, Austria, in a sting operation. Police arrested him outside the city's train station just seconds after he greeted Greipl, who had arranged the meeting at the investigators' behest, German and Austrian media have reported.

But Vozhzhov was released and allowed to return home a week later, after a United Nations inquiry found that he had diplomatic status. Vozhzhov had officially traveled to Vienna for a UN conference on outer space, though some conference participants said at the time that they did not remember seeing him in Vienna.

Vozhzhov had paid the German 13,000 euros ($20,000) for information and had promised an additional 21,000 euros, the indictment by German prosecutors said.

The court on Monday also ordered him to pay back the 13,000 euros. When the trial began two weeks ago, Greipl told the court that he was in financial trouble after setting up unsuccessful businesses.

Prosecutors say the engineer handed Vozhzhov documentation on Boeing 234, Augusta 109 and various civilian Eurocopter helicopters in 2005.

While both the Boeing and the Augusta helicopters have military versions, documentation on them is available freely on the Internet. But analysts say agents regularly offer payment for material of no obvious value just to establish good terms with potential sources.

The case against Vozhzhov has been closed "because it is unlikely that he will stand trial in Germany," a spokeswoman for the German Federal Prosecutor's Office said by telephone Monday from Karlsruhe.

Meanwhile, prosecutors in Vienna are still investigating a helicopter technician in the Austrian army believed to have originally introduced Vozhzhov to Greipl. The investigation was still ongoing, a spokesman for the prosecution said by telephone Monday from Vienna.