By Crispian Balmer ROME (Reuters) – An Italian navy captain allegedly caught handing over secret documents to a Russian military attaché in exchange for cash was in financial difficulty and struggling to support his four children, his wife told an Italian newspaper . Walter Biot, 54, was arrested Tuesday in a Rome parking lot moments after he was seen receiving 5,000 euros ($ 5,900) from the Russian official in exchange for information contained on a USB key, a law enforcement source said. Italy, which has traditionally enjoyed better relations with Moscow than many other Western states, immediately expelled two Russian diplomats in retaliation and denounced the alleged espionage as a “hostile act.” Russia’s Foreign Ministry was quoted as saying on Wednesday that it regretted the expulsions but did not threaten bilateral ties. Biot, who is in custody and faces a minimum of 15 years in jail if convicted of military espionage, has not issued a statement since his arrest. In the interview with the Corriere della Sera newspaper, his wife, Claudia Carbonara, said that she did not know if she had a lawyer. She told the newspaper that she knew nothing of what had happened, but also said that Biot had not delivered anything compromising, only “the least it could give.” “He’s not stupid or irresponsible. He was just desperate,” he said. Carbonara, a psychotherapist, said his large family was struggling financially and couldn’t make ends meet on his 3,000-euro-a-month salary, with expenses that included 1,200 euros a month in his mortgage. Reuters was unable to reach Carbonara for comment. Other newspapers reported that Carbonara had had trouble working as a result of coronavirus lockdowns over the past year. Biot holds the rank of frigate captain and had had a clerical job since 2010. He was currently working in the department of the defense ministry in charge of developing national security policy and managing part of the relations with Italy’s allies, he told Reuters a ministry source. The Russian official had diplomatic immunity, so he could not be detained, but he was one of the men expelled by the Italian Foreign Ministry, a diplomatic source said. Russia’s Nova news agency said two Russians working in the military attaché’s office flew from Rome to Moscow on Thursday, naming them Dmitry Ostroukhov and Alexei Nemudrov. Italy has relatively good ties with Moscow and has been at the forefront of efforts to try to end international sanctions against Russia. Seeking to show goodwill, Russia last year sent military doctors and medical equipment to help Italy fight an initial coronavirus outbreak. ($ 1 = 0.8524 euros)
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