Exclusive: Days before the start of the public inquiry into his murder, a tape reveals for the first time what is believed to be Alexander Litvinenko's own account of the dangerous depths of his investigations into crime bosses linked to Russia.
By Lyndsey Telford, Edward Malnick and Claire Newell
12:00PM GMT 23 Jan 2015
A tape apparently recorded by murdered Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko a year before he was poisoned has revealed he was digging up links between Vladimir Putin and one of the world’s most dangerous terrorists.
A Telegraph investigation uncovered the audio recording, in which the dissident claims from beyond the grave that Russia’s president had a “good relationship” with Semion Mogilevich – a Ukrainian crime boss who was on the FBI's most wanted list and whom Mr Litvinenko believed was selling weapons to al-Qaeda. The apparent recording of Mr Litvinenko is published for the first time ahead of a public inquiry into his death, which begins on January 27. In the tape, made in November 2005 in the same London sushi restaurant where Mr Litvinenko held one of his final meetings, he also connects Russia’s foreign intelligence and state security services – the SVR and FSB - with a former KGB agent whom he believed had links to al-Qaeda.
The same agent may also feature in the public inquiry, with lawyers examining his possible involvement in the spy’s death. And in an early indication of his fears of the Kremlin, Mr Litvinenko discloses in broken English that Russia had threatened him for working with a commission probing alleged Soviet links with Italian politicians. He says Russian special services were “very afraid” of the commission’s work.
Mr Litvinenko, 43, was a former KGB agent who fled to Britain in 2000. He was allegedly poisoned by radioactive polonium-210 at a hotel in London in November 2006. His family and friends have claimed that the Russian state ordered his killing.
Andrey Lugovoy and Dmitry Kovtun, both former KGB bodyguards, have been identified as suspects in his murder. However both deny any involvement and remain in Russia despite attempts by the UK to extradite them to stand trial.
Mr Litvinenko had been providing intelligence to Mario Scaramella, an Italian security expert who was a consultant for the Mitrokhin Commission, a parliamentary body set up in 2002 and presided by Senator Paolo Guzzanti. In the recording, Mr Litvinenko claims that Russia had blackmailed him to cease his work with Mr Scaramella by attempting to have his brother Maxim extradited from Italy, where he lived. “It is after my first contact with Mario Scaramella, Russia special service, Russia embassy asked to Italy police, arrest my brother and extradite to Russia,” Mr Litvinenko says. “It’s blackmail for me if I not stop working with Mario Scaramella and Paolo Guzzanti - it’s my brother will be prosecute in Russia.”
An associate of Mr Litvinenko claimed that the “strong Russian presence” in Italy made it easier for the Russian authorities to get to Maxim Litvinenko than the dissident himself.
Mr Litvinenko identifies himself in the tape as a “former KGB and FSB officer” and explains that he had been providing Mr Scaramella with intelligence on a number of individuals – including Mogilevich, who remains today on the FBI’s top 10 most wanted list. “Mogilevich have good relationship with Putin since 1994 or 1993,” he claims. “Semion Mogilevich is best person who is wanted FBI. And Semion Mogilevich has contact with Al Qaeda. Semion Mogilevich sell weapons, sell weapons to Al Qaeda. Before I gave a lot of information about Mogilevich to Mario Scaramella.”
Mr Litvinenko had begun working with Mr Scaramella, a lawyer by trade and one-time consultant for the Environmental Crime Prevention Program (ECPP), in 2003. They met regularly over the course of the last three years of Mr Litvinenko’s life – in Italy and in London. During their final meeting at 3.30pm on Nov 1 2006 in Itsu, Piccadilly, Mr Scaramella warned Mr Litvinenko of intelligence he had received about a Russian plot to kill those involved with the Mitrokhin Commission.
Mr Litvinenko, who had also been investigating the death of outspoken Putin critic and journalist Anna Politkovskaya, dismissed Mr Scaramella’s concerns, but promised to try to verify them. He became violently ill later that day, following a meeting at the prestigious Millennium Hotel with Mr Lugovoy and Mr Kovtun, and subsequently died on Nov 23.
The tape, now published by the Telegraph, was recorded exactly one year before Mr Litvinenko’s death.
“My name is Alexander Litvinenko. I am former KGB officer. It’s 23rd of November. Now I stay in London. Now 3 o’clock pm,” the voice says in the recording. He refers to a “former KGB officer”, whom he and Mr Scaramella had been investigating, and alleges he had links with organised crime in Italy, as well as the FSB and SVR. “I think I know Russia special service very afraid about this commission, about Russia agent who made terrorist activity in Italy, now stake in Italy government and now stake in Italy politic and now live in Italy and has high rank in Italy business,” he claims. The agent denied the allegations against him and Mr Scaramella was later accused of calumny – or defamation – against him. The Italian, who was imprisoned for 14 months, denied the charges against him.
He maintained that the claims against the agent were based on intelligence from Mr Litvinenko.
“[The agent] has contact with Al Qaeda and he has contact with SVR and FSB agent from Arabian terrorist who has trained in Chechen rebels camp,” Mr Litvinenko claims. “This agent influenced to Chechen rebels through FSB and SVR. SVR influenced his secret agent to Chechen rebels structure and after this influenced to Al Qaeda terrorist organisation. “I gave information about [the agent] to Mario Scaramella… Take evidence about [the agent] criminal activity in Italy, and [the agent’s] friends’ criminal activity in Italy,” Mr Litvinenko says in the recording. Mr Scaramella, who is under Italian state protection, will appear at the public inquiry as a witness.