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A former high-ranking official at the Estonian Defense Ministry,
A former high-ranking official at the Estonian Defense Ministry, who has been charged with high treason, was a Russian "sleeper" agent, an influential Estonian newspaper said on Thursday.

Hermann Simm, 61, was arrested on September 21 along with his wife Heete Simm on suspicion of illegal collecting and communication of classified information for Russia.

The Postimees newspaper said the former chief of the Estonian Defense Ministry's security department had already confessed, and gave a detailed account of his illegal activities, which included passing secret documents on the EU, NATO and Estonia to the GRU, the Russian military intelligence service.

According to the paper, Simm told investigators that he was recruited by the KGB back in the Soviet era and was approached by GRU operatives in mid-1990s with threats to be exposed as a KGB agent if he refused to continue working for Russia.

Investigators believe, however, that his main motivation in spying for Russia for almost a decade was greed and power hunger, the paper said.

Simm previously held various positions at Estonia's Interior Ministry and Police Board, including as director general of the board when he started work for the Defense Ministry in 1995 as head of the defense policy department's information analysis office.

In 2001 he was appointed head of the newly formed state secret protection department. As head of the Defense Ministry Security Department, Simm was tasked with coordinating the protection of state secrets.

The department is also responsible for issuing access to classified information and handling data from international organizations, including NATO, the European Union and Estonia's other defense partners.

A former Estonian high-ranking police official told Postimees that Simm could have been recruited by the KGB when he was caught doing illegal business while studying in Moscow in the 1980s.

"I was told that it happened in Moscow, when Simm studied at the Police Academy and was caught selling contraband goods brought from Estonia," the paper quoted the official as saying.

On November 6, the Estonian State Prosecutor's office released an investigative report, which said that Simm's handler may have been an officer of Russia's Foreign Intelligence Service who had been using the false identity of an EU citizen.

No Russian diplomats have been expelled from Estonia in the wake of the first major spy row with Moscow since the restoration of Estonia's independence in 1991.

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