Military aide accused of betraying Britain by spying for Iran had 'delusions of grandeur'

The commander of Nato forces in Afghanistan was 'completely dependent' on a 'Walter Mitty' interpreter accused of betraying Britain by spying for Iran, a court has heard.

Former head of coalition forces General David Richards described Iranian-born Daniel James as a 'complex character' with delusions of grandeur.

But he said there was 'no one else available' with similar translating skills.

Daniel James and General Richards

'Influential': Daniel James, left, on tour with General Richards in 2008. James is accused of passing on sensitive secrets to a colonel in the Iranian Embassy

During his tour of duty, the corporal would refer to himself as 'General James' and had to be reminded by superiors that he was just an interpreter, it was alleged.

Despite concerns James kept his position, even though he was privy to highly classified information, the court heard.

General Richards, now Commander-in-Chief of the British land forces, told the Old Bailey: 'We were completely dependent on him.

'I wanted a military man and at that stage there was no one else available. He was in quite an influential position and maybe he played up to it a bit.'

James, 45, a salsa-dancing teacher and former Mr Universe contestant, became the general's interpreter in May 2006.

His role primarily consisted of translating the general's private conversations with Afghan leaders along with his public speeches.

General Richards said James would 'act up' to an audience as if he was the general.

Daniel James

Previous life: James was once a Mr Universe contestant

'I used to tease him,' he said. 'He was very keen on looking after himself, appearing to like the limelight. A complex character is how I would describe him.'

He added: 'He could be tiresome to the staff, but from my perspective he was affable company.'

The prosecution alleges James passed on sensitive secrets to a colonel in the Iranian Embassy because he was becoming increasingly disenchanted and bitter at his lack of promotion.

General Richards said that he had considered James for a promotion to sergeant but decided he was 'not ready'.

Colonel John Donnelly, one of his former commanding officers, told the court he found James 'strange and eccentric'.

James sent numerous emails and made several telephone calls to an Iranian military attache during his tour, it was claimed.

When police arrested James they found he had a computer memory stick containing copies of reports on troop movements and casualties, the court heard.

James denies breaching the Official Secrets Act by communicating information and collecting documents that could be useful to an enemy, and also denies wilful misconduct in a public office.

The case continues.

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