Italian who met Russian poisoned spy is arrested

Iran Materials 25 December 2006 12:35 (UTC +04:00)

(AP) - An Italian who met with an ex-KGB agent the day the Russian fell fatally ill from radiation poisoning was arrested on Sunday, the man's father said.

The accusations against Mario Scaramella international arms trafficking and slander were not believed to be directly related to the investigation into the poisoning death of Alexander Litvinenko, reports Trend.

Scaramella, who is the first person connected to the poisoning case to be arrested, met Litvinenko at a London sushi bar on Nov. 1, the day the former KGB agent fell ill. Litvinenko died of poisoning from radioactive polonium-210 on Nov. 23.

The Italian's father, Amedeo Scaramella, said his son was arrested in Naples after returning from London. Rome prosecutors have accused him of international arms trafficking and slander, and he was being taken to Rome, according to his father.

Scaramella said he showed Litvinenko e-mails at the Nov. 1 meeting from a confidential source identifying the possible killers of Russian investigative journalist Anna Politkovskaya and listing other potential targets for assassination including himself and Litvinenko.

On his deathbed, Litvinenko blamed Russian President Vladimir Putin for his poisoning an allegation that the Kremlin denied.

Scaramella also was hospitalized for several days in London and he said doctors told him he had received five times the lethal dose of polonium-210, although he showed no symptoms. He left the hospital a few days later.

Overall, 10 people in Britain tested positive for radiation since Litvinenko died, including two staff members at the Millennium Hotel in London.

The same day that Litvinenko met with Scaramella, the Russian met with Andrei Lugovoi, also an ex-Soviet agent; Dmitry Kovtun, a Russian businessman; and Vyacheslav Sokolenko, head of a private Russian security firm, at the bar at Millennium Hotel.

All three men have denied involvement in the ex-spy's death.

Scaramella has been gathering information for Italian Sen. Paolo Guzzanti the former chair of a parliamentary commission that examined cases of past KGB infiltration in Italy. Guzzanti said the Italian accusations against Scaramella appeared unrelated to the poisoning.

Guzzanti said Scaramella told him Saturday that he was likely to be arrested upon his return to Italy.

"I told him to stay there for Christmas, but he said to me, 'no, I have no intention of appearing like a fugitive,' " Guzzanti said.

No one answered the phone at Naples police headquarters Sunday, and Scaramella's lawyer did not immediately return a call to his cell phone. British police had no comment on Scaramella's arrest.

Guzzanti said police in London had given Scaramella a certificate acknowledging that he had fully cooperated with their investigation.

Last month, Milan daily Corriere della Sera published excerpts of an alleged wiretapped, January phone conversation between Scaramella and Guzzanti, during which Scaramella was quoted as telling Guzzanti that he could not get information that showed that Italian Premier Romano Prodi had been a KGB agent.

A few days later, Prodi's office announced that the premier would take legal action against unnamed parties who defamed his character.